Brain Plasticity and the Idea of the Functional System
The paper shows that the idea of brain plasticity underpins Luria’s theory of the functional system and his approach to diagnosis and rehabilitation of brain-damaged patients. Although the functional system is frequently quoted in neuropsychological literature its important facets are as a rule overlooked or misunderstood. First of all, the functional system is not only composed of various often quite distant brain structures but it undergoes changes in accord with the arriving circumstances including chances and difficulties encountered by a given person. Accordingly, these alternations may be positive or may be enforced by brain diseases, which results in performing a particular function in different ways.
The notion of neuroplasticity was also incorporated in the works of Luria on development and culture. It should be noted that he stressed the role of social factors in the evolvement of cognitive processes with special emphasis put on social means of which he considered language to play the most important role. Luria argued that the use of these tools results in alternations in the structure and flow of mental functions both in children and in adults. It was exemplified in his experiments with twins and with inhabitants of remote villages in Central Asia. All his ideas have found confirmation in contemporary studies. First, all mental processes depend upon the interconnections between neural clusters of changing patterns depending upon the nature of the task performed and the life experience of an individual. Second, the brain works depend to a considerable degree upon the organism as a whole a well as a social environment, which many authors link with the emergence and functioning of the mind. Third, the approach to diagnosis and remediation techniques that takes into account the feelings and life story of the patient is nowadays accepted not only in dealing with brain-damaged patients but also in the case of other disorders. Also, those traditionally labeled as somatic. In addition, we observe the revival of case studies in the scientific literature.