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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Comments

View Comments (8)
  • TheUnreality
    2 years ago

    Thank you for this post Phil.
    My husband and I were talking not that long ago about our biggest fears in life and mine was “losing control of my body”. And Bam! Hit with the diagnosis that would do just that.
    As an artist and creator, it fills my heart with joy to know that it is possible to break through the barriers that are going to try and hold me back. So thank you!

  • PS98107 author
    2 years ago

    You’re very welcome, TheUnreality!

    Neuroplasticity is a process we all have from early childhood and throughout our lives and it is key to our learning/development. every time we learn something new or relearn tasks due to disability, our brain makes new neural connections to accomplish those tasks and all it takes is willpower and persistence. It’s a mind-brain-body connection.

    I’m delighted you are not going to give up your passions!! 🙂

  • DarleenM
    2 years ago

    Phil,
    Thank you for posting your story. I too am interested in Neuroplasticity. I think it is something the MS community and Neuroscientists are learning more and more about. This is a great topic for further studies in the area of art, music, physical activity, meditation etc. and how it can help others with neurological conditions. We need more positive and doable ways to alleviate harmful physical and mental/emotional barriers. Thanks for reminding me of this and I’ll look into it further for my own edification.

  • PS98107 author
    2 years ago

    You’re welcome, Darleen!

  • PS98107 author
    2 years ago

    Since links work in the comments. I’ll post them here: The first link is a story on Get Back Your Music from last year https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wCGLVT2JYc This one is of my dad playing the organ in his 60s back in 1984 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc_V877sYnE . Here is the one our band Axon featuring a guest guitarist who is studying to be a music therapist, 3 of us with MS and a drummer with cerebral palsy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMrJ4a2ezqM and here is a great article in NMSS’ Momentum Magazine about neuroplasticity. http://www.momentummagazineonline.com/forging-new-pathways-brain/

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Phil – again I love to hear your story, as well as your background with music and your father. Your persistence as well as positivity shines through like no other! We appreciate you sharing your story as well as your love for music therapy. Thank you for being a part of our community!
    Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • PS98107 author
    2 years ago

    Oops, guess I should have read the rules first. Please delete my previous reply and I will start over. Thanks,

    Phil

  • PS98107 author
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much Meagan and it is my pleasure to be a part of MultipleSclerosis.net I’m not positive as to the policy on links but I hope you watch the one of my band Axon doing the Beatles tune although, it looks like you’ll have to cut and paste the URL into your browser. In addition to my free Get Back Your Music #GBYM Sessions program here in Seattle, I’m just trying to spread the reality and hope of neuroplasticity to everyone I can. I even composed and recorded a song about it called Brain Plasticity http://music.philsee.com/brainplasticity.mp3 I have a couple more related links if you are interested. Do you have a twitter or facebook or email address I can send them to, one is an article in the National MS Society’s Momentum Magazine about neuroplasticity featuring yours truly and another is a KING TV Healthlink story on GBYM.

    Please keep in touch! 🙂

    Best wishes to you and yours,

    Phil See

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