Dr. Bessel van der Kolk discusses synaptic connections in his book “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” He writes: “…the brain is formed in a “use-dependent” manner. This is another way of describing neuroplasticity, the relatively recent discovery that neurons that “fire together, wire together.” When a circuit fires repeatedly, it can become a default setting – the response most likely to occur.”
I imagine new synaptic connections in the brain being created as I retrain like water flowing in a pathway through sand. The old path, the dystonic one, was once so strong that the synaptic connections traveled that pathway naturally. Retraining, then, is the process of consciously redirecting the “water” to create another “path in the sand” in order to develop new synaptic connections. In the beginning of the retraining process, the new paths are so tenuous and precarious it is crucial to go slowly through the movement for consistency and predictability in the muscular response. Over time the new path becomes the stronger one.
I am encouraged by the idea that if my brain was plastic enough to develop focal dystonia, it is plastic enough to retrain.