Remembering Peter G. Levine of Stronger After Stroke

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Peter G. Levine.

Deb Battistella, OT and Cohost of the Noggins and Neurons podcast with Pete announced in the January 17 episode that Pete passed away following a brief illness. You can hear Deb share the news and her thoughts here.

Pete is known in stroke survivor circles as the author of the book, "Stronger After Stroke" where he talks about therapeutic approaches and why the work. His focus has been to help folks with varying levels of paralysis after stroke to recover function and live their best lives.

I share more of my thoughts in this episode:

(If you don't see the audio player below, visit http://Strokecast.com/RememberingPeteLevine)

I interviewed Pete in 2020 and found him to be down to Earth and passionate about supporting patients and survivors. He was fun and easy to talk with and I could feel the fire of caring he had for our community.

Pete's approach was scientific. He was a strong supporter of Constraint Induced Therapy and at a more basic level, of the need to get in more repetitions -- thousands of repetitions -- to drive the neuroplastic changes in the brain that represent recovery.

That also means he wasn't afraid to speak out about "treatments" that have not been scientifically demonstrated to be safe and effective. There are a lot of people out there making claims about miracle cures without the data to back up those claims, and Pete was a vocal opponent of those snake oil sales people.

When Pete and I spoke, he summed up his approach to stroke recovery with these four lessons:

  1. Recovery takes a lot of repetitive practice.
  2. Recovery takes a lot of visualization.
  3. Don’t expect miracles.
  4. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

It's a simple approach that makes a lot of sense. It's not sexy or flashy or miraculous. It relies on hard, consistent work and stringing together a lot of minor improvements. There is no shortcut.

His comments about visualization were especially interesting to me. Pete explained how the research has shown that watching someone walking or running activates the same parts of the brain as actually walking or running.

It's why athletes and musicians visualize their performances before hand to improve their performance. And it's why I found value in visualizing my fingers moving as I tried to move them under the blankets while I drifted off to sleep at night.

You can find my interview with Pete here at  Ep 115 — Stronger After Stroke with Peter G. Levine. We talk about his work and the science of recovery in much greater detail.

If you've followed Pete's blog (Stronger After Stroke), read his book Stronger After Stroke, heard him talk or otherwise been inspired by or have memories of Peter that you would like to share, you can record or email them to Deb, his cohost, at this link. I'm sure she and Pete's family, friends and colleagues will definitely appreciate it.

Hack of the Week

This week, I'm sharing a hack I've discussed before, but it feels in line with Pete's approach to recovery.

Try something with your affected limb three times, every time.

For example, if you are left side affected, try turning a door knob with your left hand when it's time to open or close a door. Maybe you can't do it yet. That's okay. Just try. Use your unaffected hand to put your affected hand on the knob.

Or do it with a light switch. Or picking up a cane. Or whatever.

Try it three times each time the opportunity presents itself. After three times, if you haven't accomplished the task, that's fine. Then you can use your unaffected side to do it.

The advantages of this approach are that it keeps your brain trying to use the affected side. It's getting in more attempts at repetitions and making the exercise part of everyday life, instead of restricting it to exercise time.

And by limiting your attempts to three, you reduce the frustration of the limitation and can get on with living your life.

You can try again later in the day.


(If you don't see the table of inks below, visit http://Strokecast.com/RememberingPeteLevine)

Where do we go from here?

Here is the latest episode of The Strokecast

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