Current research shows that the brain is not fixed and unchangeable, but a highly dynamic organ that is able to modify its neuronal connections. This ability enables the brain to constantly remodel itself, for example to adapt to various neurological conditions such as chronic epilepsy or to recover functions after brain surgery.
How does the brain adapt to chronic epilepsy?
Rasmussen's encephalitis is a rare form of epilepsy, but a good model for chronic epilepsy. This condition is usually limited to one hemisphere (ipsilesional hemisphere) that looses most of its function during the disease course. Therefore, remodelling in the other mostly healthy hemisphere of the brain (contralesional hemisphere) is crucial to preserve important cognitive and motor functions. From the MRI and network analysis, we can observe that cortical thickness in the mostly healthy hemisphere increases, and that the brain network rewires to become more efficient.
How does the brain recover after disconnective surgery?
Some forms of epilepsy can be treated by removing or disconnecting the parts of the brain where most likely epileptic seizures start. Depending on the disconnected region, this may cause motor or cognitive deficits. To some extend, these functions may recover after some time, which is another example where neuroplastic remodelling. We use MRI to investigate which changes of fiber tracts and in the brain network make this recovery possible.