“Whether we realize it or not, nearly all of us have dreamed of enhancing brain plasticity, or the brain’s capacity to change. This desire might become apparent when we visit a foreign country late in life and wish we could speak with the fluency of a native; when we hear an exquisite violin performance and wish we had learned to play as a child; or simply when we wish it were easier to break a bad habit.
The same desire permeates society’s hope for advanced treatment of brain injury, where the diminished plasticity of the adult brain severely limits recovery. One example is stroke, a major cause of long-term disability for which there is currently no pharmacological treatment. Many stroke victims suffer muscle weakness or paralysis and have difficulty walking. Compounding these challenges are aphasias, or impairments in the ability to talk, read, write, and understand words or numbers. In a substantial number of cases, the aftermath of a stroke can make it impossible to live independently.”