Brain injury pushes Toronto doctor to promote brain-healthy lifestyle

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A Toronto doctor is on a mission to promote the positive effects of aerobic exercise on the brain after he had a near-death experience that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. – Aug 30, 2020

Just seven years after suffering his own traumatic brain injury, a Toronto doctor is on a mission to promote the positive effects of aerobic exercise — and raise funds to further research.

Each Sunday for the past several months, Dr. Matthew Galati has led a group of runners through High Park. It’s part of a regimen he says helped him get his life back.

“I had to pretty much re-learn everything: how to walk again, how to talk, how to tell time,” he told Global News before setting out.

In 2013, Galati was in a serious car crash that left the then-medical student with injuries so severe he was put into an induced coma for three days.

After leaving hospital, he entered the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Despite showing some improvement, he said a test indicated he still had more work to do.

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“Nothing was severely impaired but it was clear that I was not ready to return back to medicine either cognitively or physically,” he said.

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Determined to get better, Galati explained he went home and researched how he could maximize his recovery.

With this in mind, he started running five kilometres every morning to further his aerobic exercise. He picked up the guitar to practise his fine motor skills. He also reviewed notes from medical school to improve memory and attention.

Six months later, he said the changes were evident on a subsequent test at Toronto Rehab.

“I was above both the brain-injured population and the standardized population for the same age and education level.”

After completing medical school, Galati founded the Brain Changes Initiative to raise awareness and fund research into traumatic brain injury.

“When you see a Dr. Matthew Galati, where he started and where he is now, I think that’s evidence-based and I think he’s just trying to get his research to the forefront so that other people can benefit from it,” said Catherine Morgan, the director of marketing, communications and events for Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, which received funds from Galati’s efforts.

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As the size of his group runs continues to grow — now reaching 20 to 30 people each Sunday — Galati said he plans to continue spreading awareness of the positive effects of aerobic exercise while using his on insights into recovery to benefit others.

“All I want to do is give back to others and to help others have the same recovery that I had,” he said.

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