Part of your recovery may depend on how much fun your having while you recover.
Enriched environments (EE) are what we all want. It's why we send our kids to good schools, why we seek out new experiences and why we travel. It turns out that enriched environments are very good for the brain. One of the main enrichments of environment that humans have is social interaction.
What do enriched environments have to do with stroke recovery? A ton.
What hurts social interaction? A stroke.
It turns out that there's pretty good evidence that stroke survivors engaged in enriched environments recover more. More than what, you may ask. Survivors involved in environments rich in social interaction, physical activity, and interesting experiences recover more than survivors who are not in enriched environment.
There is one caveat… Most of this research has been done on animals. The reason was done in animals is that it would be impossible to do the same sort of research and humans. Imagine a human study like this would go…
You would have to groups:
The control group: survivors would be involved in a highly social environment in which there were a lot of games played, a lot of conversations and a lot of physical activity.
The experimental group: survivors would be put in a cell where they were fed well, but did not engage any other humans in anyway.
A study like that on humans would be considered… What's the word? Unethical. That's the word: Unethical.
How do you find rats that have had a stroke? You give them one. Researchers surgically cause a stroke in the rats. (video here)
They then separated the rats into an experimental
and control group.
(Note: the idea of enriching environments is beginning to be tested in human survivors. It is made ethical by letting one group do what they normally would do while the experimental group got an increase in physical, cognitive, and social activity.)
What does the research show about the effect of enriched environments on stroke recovery? The rat stroke survivors in the enriched environments had better proprioception (sense of movement) than the rats that were left to themselves.