“Gabrielle Giffords on Thursday felt the sunshine on her face for the first time since she was shot, as doctors prepared her to leave behind the Arizona hospital where she dazzled them with her rapid recovery.

“Her next stop will be a Houston rehab center, where she will face an even more arduous task: Getting life back to normal

“Late Thursday, trauma surgeon, Dr. Peter Rhee, said staff at University Medical Center in Tucson helped Giffords stand and get into a wheelchair. They then took her to a deck at the hospital, where she breathed in the fresh air and felt the sun.

“‘I saw the biggest smile she could gather,’ Rhee said, noting that Giffords loves the outdoors.”

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“Despite the use of terms like ‘miraculous’ to describe Giffords’s progress, numerous experts describe her survival and apparently good condition as an increasingly common outcome in brain-injured patients, thanks to aggressive surgery and meticulous care afterward.

“The ability of the brain to compensate for damage by at least partly rewiring itself and assigning new tasks to undamaged regions is known as ‘neuroplasticity.’ It’s one of the hottest topics in biology and an important one in medicine.

“Because of insights from functional magnetic resonance imaging and other technologies, scientists now realize that brain reorganization after injury is far more common and extensive than previously thought. They also know that neuroplasticity depends to a great degree on experience – which is to say, what the brain is forced to do in the critical weeks and months after it is injured.

“‘There is a relationship between the amount of therapy you receive and the degree of recovery,’ said Maurizio Corbetta, a neurologist who runs a brain injury unit at the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis at Washington University. ‘This is particularly true in the first three to six months when the brain is reorganizing.'”

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“Pelosi said she believed that Giffords, the victim of an assassination attempt on Jan. 8, would one day return to her seat in the House.

‘Yes, I think so,’ Pelosi said on CNN’s ‘The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer’ when asked if she thought Giffords would return to Congress.”

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