Neuroplasticity, a reality and hope that knows no illness

We all have our personal stories of how MS has changed our lives but I have to say that while MS does not define me, it did, from a musical standpoint, change my life for the better and it helped me understand my dad, a musician with cerebral palsy, a little better. Wait! A musician with cerebral palsy, you ask? Yes, my dad’s hands were clinched as a result of his condition and the only things he could move were his thumbs so he taught himself to play two-note chords on the piano with the first knuckle of each thumb. He kept at it and then the impossible happened. His hands began to open until he eventually had full use of his fingers. This will, this stubbornness to do the impossible, made his brain adapt, learn and change via neuroplasticity (http://www.momentummagazineonline.com/forging-new-pathways-brain/) and go around that “brick wall” and find another way. In so doing, it affected the rest of his body and when he decided on playing the organ using both hands and feet, he was able to accomplish it, which at the time, was deemed “medically impossible”. Here he is in his 60s playing two minutes of Beyond The Sunset (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc_V877sYnE). In my case, when I was diagnosed with MS in 2002, my left arm and hand had become too weak and uncoordinated to play my musical instruments which included rhythm, lead and bass guitars, keyboards and drums. I didn’t know what neuroplasticity was then but giving up my music was NOT and option and I kept trying despite the weakness. That persistence eventually paid off because six to eight months later, my strength and ability came back. What that means is my dad and I are proof neuroplasticity is real and works. Since April of last year, I am now showing other musicians with neurological disorders they can get back their music in a free program I started called Get Back Your Music made of jam sessions that invoke neuroplasticity in the brain. We all have neuroplasticity available to us whether we are musicians, skiers, painters, what ever we do with our limbs and it works for people with MS, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy and anyone else with a neurological condition or disease. All we have to do is keep trying. If you still don’t believe neuroplasticity is possible, check out this short Beatles song our band called Axon played. Axon is so far made up of 3 guitarists/singers with MS and a drummer with cerebral palsy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMrJ4a2ezqM). Keep trying! It will pay off!

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