The More Rats the Better!

The thought of one rat is enough to send a shiver up the spine of most people.  Multiple rats?  A change of underpants would be in order.

Luckily, in the name of neuroscience, Mark Rosenzweig, David Krech, Edward Bennett and Marian C. Diamond at the University of California, Berkeley, were not nearly as scared as I.  Their 1960 and 1962 studies can be summarized like this:

Rats that lived in a cage with a more stimulating environment (more toys and tunnels to crawl through) developed larger brains and had more brain activity than rats in less stimulating environments.  The kicker? There was even more brain mass and brain connectivity improvements when there were MORE rats in the cage (you can read better summaries of these studies in his book: Enriched and Impoverished Environments: Effects on Brain and Behavior, 1987).

Radioactive Ooze created Splinter, but maybe he just needed to be more social?

Radioactive Ooze created Splinter, but maybe he just needed to be more social?

So being social improves neuroplasticity.  We’ve already discussed here about Aim2Walk’s open concept clinic setup and how social isolation is linked to poor outcomes, depression and stress.  But having fewer walls in your rehab setting isn’t the only way to be social in your recovery.

There are numerous community programs in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and likely in a city near you as well.  These programs offer education, support and kinship in a group setting.

Here is a list of just some of the programs available in the GTA (and most of these groups have locations across Canada):

Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST)
BIST has a Brain Injury Support Group that “allows individuals living the effects of brain injury to meet others to share experiences, receive emotional support, as well as valuable information and resources.” To learn more about this group, call 416-830-1485 or email
BIST also offers a family and caregiver support group. Click here to learn more.

March of Dimes Canada
The March of Dimes offers an extensive network of peer support groups. Their group for stroke survivors and caregivers allows for people to:

  • Talk to a fellow survivor or be connected to a support group
  • Learn more about stroke, stroke symptoms and stroke recovery
  • Find stroke recovery resources in your area
  • Find support for fellow caregivers and family members
    For a complete list of groups across the country, please call the Stroke Recovery Canada Warmline® at 1-888-540-6666.

Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCI Ontario)
Previously known as the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario, SCI Ontario has been helping Canadians living with a spinal cord injury since 1945.  They host events throughout the year, throughout the province.  The events range from info sessions on the latest in Bowel and Bladder management to Resume/Cover Letter writing to Ski/Snowboard events.

The Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy (OFCP)
Another group dedicated to offering local events for those affected by Cerebral Palsy. They have an events calendar that is updated regularly.

We could go on forever. There is opportunity to connect with others, not just with your diagnosis, but alos with similar interests, is rampant.  Not only are these social events often fun outings, but the literature has shown that being social is better for your recovery.

If you know of any groups or events that would be of interest to our readers, please let us know by commenting on this post.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go in 2013!

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.” – Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

No doubt, this has been the best advice I’ve ever received from a doctor.  Every time I read this book to my kids, it reminds me that we can control so much of our lives, and having a positive outlook only enhances our outcomes.

This is going to be a great year!

and yours too!

and yours too!

I’m sure you’ve heard that, or thought that, or even said that before.  And it’s possible that whatever year you heard/thought/said that about may not have turned out to be great.  But it’s a new year and we’re all entitled to an optimistic outlook, right?

At Aim2Walk, optimism is booming – and that’s a great thing for recovery.  The effects of having a positive outlook on recovery are well documented, and a good therapist can help optimism thrive while helping a client maintain realistic expectations.  This study on functional stroke recovery, from the journal of Biobehavioural Medicine, was one of hundreds found from a simple literature search on the beneficial effects of positive emotion during recovery.

I wanted to start the year off with a good, ol’ fashioned list. Here are my 13 reasons to be optimistic for 2013:

1) If you’re reading this, you’re alive – and that’s alway good.

2) A new year means a new chance to set goals, then reach and surpass those goals.

3) The number 13 is actually a lucky number. Just ask Taylor Swift.

zac-efron Optimism

Wow, this guy looks like me!

4) 2013 is the first year since 1987 to have have 4 different numbers. 1987 was a very lucky year as it gave us Zac Efron and Hilary Duff.

5) Rehab technology continues to advance and help improve therapy outcomes throughout the world. 2013 has already brought new technologies to Aim2Walk – look out for write-ups in the near future about the Magnesphere, Pablo, and Tymo!

6) Neuroplasticity – it still exists, and it is the reason there should always be optimism for recovery.

7) Expansion is coming! Aim2Walk will be expanding in May, 2013. We will be able to provide more services in what will be a stellar environment. We will continually update our readers of expansion progress, and the fact that Neurochangers will play a major role in this expansion 🙂

8) Blog improvements – this space will be updated MUCH MORE frequently. You can expect multiple posts per week, just because we love you.

9) The Toronto Blue Jays have a chance to be great this season! (I never said this was everyone’s top 13)

10) Because it’s good to be optimistic! I will continue to drill home this point. But I will let this TED talk do it more eloquently.

11) In case you’re not sure if you have enough optimism, you can track it with the Optimism App for your smart phone! It was developed for bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental health conditions, but we can all benefit from tracking our mood.

12) Because optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – Helen Keller

And finally, the 13th reason to be optimistic in 2013…

13) 2013 will be a year of realizing potential, of great succes, and of moving mountains!

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”
– Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

Have a great 2013!