The brain is an important part of our lives, but its condition can affect the way we think, feel and interact with others.
We may be at the mercy of our surroundings and our thoughts, but we can also be at our own risk, warns neurosurgeon-in-chief at Stanford University, Robert J. Noran.
As a neurologist, Noran is responsible for the care of the world’s leading neurologists, including the nation’s foremost experts in stroke, stroke rehabilitation, stroke-related neurology and stroke rehabilitation medicine.
“We must be vigilant and careful with stroke and stroke related rehabilitation, to keep the brain healthy,” Noran says.
We must also remember that stroke is the result of an abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
“The brain is the organ of the mind and the organ that makes sense of the physical world,” he says.
“That’s why it is so important to keep your brain healthy.”
Noran says that the number of strokes that occur in the US is rising at a rate of about 1 in 100.
That means that about one in four people in the United States will experience a stroke in their lifetime.
Many people think that stroke happens every few years, and there is little or no awareness of its long-term impact.
In fact, stroke is a chronic condition that can lead to long-lasting and disabling effects.
“Our ability to respond to our environment is limited by our brain,” Norans wife, Sarah, says.
In the past, the two of them have been working together to develop strategies to improve their understanding of stroke, especially among the youngest people.
In 2014, Norans team developed a new stroke rehabilitation technique, called the Neurosurgical Interaction Training (NIIT) program, that combines cognitive therapy and the ability to walk, while improving communication between the patient and family.
The goal of NIIT is to develop the cognitive skills needed for stroke rehabilitation.
“I believe that by integrating cognitive therapy with a program like NIIT, we can help our stroke patients to develop new skills and learn to control their impulses,” Norant says.
The team has seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of life for people who have been diagnosed with stroke, according to their findings in a recent study.
Norants stroke program was one of a number of research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health to find ways to help people with stroke cope.
“If we can teach them to control impulses, and we can do that in a way that’s not painful and doesn’t make them feel like they’re a burden to others, that’s a huge win,” Norants wife says.
Norants research team has been working with patients in his Palo Alto clinic since 2009.
He has seen an increase in people with the disease who want to help others and share their experiences.
When I was in the hospital, I started noticing that people were talking to me, he says, as he sat in a wheelchair and tried to explain the stroke to someone who had just lost a loved one to stroke.
I would hear them ask, “What are you doing for me?”
I had never seen a stroke like this, he recalls.
“They had been there and they hadn’t been able to move their body to help.
They had to be walking and walking and they didn’t know how to do that,” he said.
And they had a hard time talking about it.
There are many things we can learn from stroke, he continues.
“If you can get someone to talk to you about a stroke or get them to understand it, it’s going to change their life.
You can’t tell them how to live their life, but you can help them to learn how to survive.”
It takes about six months to recover from stroke in a person with Alzheimer’s, but stroke is usually fatal within a year.
Despite these challenges, Norants research group has managed to provide people with Alzheimer disease with an unprecedented level of support and understanding of their condition.
Since 2013, Norant has been teaching a two-day course for stroke survivors called “The Brain of the Brain.”
“I feel like this is the first course that I’ve ever taught in which we teach people to be able to speak to each other, to communicate,” Norancy says.
“It is a way of making people feel comfortable in their own skin, as opposed to just trying to understand what they are experiencing.
I hope that this will be a model that will spread to other stroke patients, stroke survivors, and stroke patients themselves.”
The course is now in its third year.
Its popularity is growing and Noran and his team are looking to expand the program to include stroke survivors in the future.
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