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Paperback The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science Book

ISBN: 0143113100

ISBN13: 9780143113102

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

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Book Overview

"Fascinating. Doidge's book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain."--Oliver Sacks, MD, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat What is neuroplasticity? Is it possible to change your brain? Norman Doidge's inspiring guide to the new brain science explains all of this and more An astonishing new science called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable,...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Very hopeful!

I recommend This book for anyone who knows a brain injured person or is brain injured will give you hope because it chronicles the research done in the 60s and 70s by a brilliant Doctor Who proved that neural plasticity was a factor and is a factor in the healing brain and that the brain will heal with proper stimulation it's very hopeful , I recommend it to anybody, I have bought multiple multiple copies and given them to everyone my daughter Who was brain injured last summer, is around, and it's made them more motivated to help her and it gave me hope in a very dark time.

Excellent balance of case history, theory, and empirical research

This is one of the most interesting nonfiction books that I have *ever* read. I found the book fascinating, but lest that be chalked up to my being a psychologist, my husband the computer scientist found it fascinating, too. Scientists used to believe that the brain was relatively fixed and unchanging -- some of them still believe that -- but recent research shows that the brain is much more mutable than biologists, psychologists, physicians (and any other scientists who studied brains) had ever thought. For example, anecdotal evidence had long supported the idea that blind people hear better than sighted people, but scientists pooh-poohed this idea, saying that there was no mechanism for that to occur. Well, they recently discovered that the area of the brain usually called the visual cortex is taken over for auditory processing in blind people. So blind folks have twice as much brain space devoted to processing sounds, which means that they really do hear better, and now we know why. Scientists were astounded to discover that the "visual" cortex was really just brain space that could be used for anything. Psych 101 and Bio 101 textbooks often have a picture in them that shows which areas of the brain control which bodily functions, and this is all presented as fixed and unchanging. Imagine our surprise to learn that the brain can make fairly large shifts in just a few days -- for example, if you blindfold somebody for five days, the area of their brains that's usually called the visual cortex starts using large sections of itself to process touch and sound, and this change is made in as little as two days. Two days! The book is not just theoretical, though -- the author is interested in the theory, but he's even more interested in how all of this can be applied to better the lives of real people. He talks about people with strokes who've learned to walk again, people with vestibular problems who've learned to substitute something else for their missing vestibular system, people who've been helped with ADHD, autism, retardation, and many other "incurable" conditions by altering their brains. The downside of the book is that the author is a Freudian, so there are some annoying comments about how Freud knew it all along, but if you can overlook that, it's all fascinating. The author does an excellent job of drawing the reader in with a story about a real person, then elaborating on the ideas by talking about studies that show the basic principles and their implications, then explaining how this can be used to ameliorate or even cure conditions that were considered incurable. This book blew me away! The chapter titles will give you more information about the subject matter: 1. A Woman Perpetually Falling...: Rescued by the Man Who Discovered the Plasticity of Our Senses 2. Building Herself a Better Brain: A Woman Labeled "Retarded" Discovers How to Heal Herself 3. Redesigning the Brain: A Scientist Changes Brains to Sharpen Percept

Astonishing Stories of Damaged Brains Repairing Themselves

"The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science" by Norman Doidge, is an easily readable, enjoyable, and thought-provoking book that gives the nonprofessional an overview of the new science of neuroplasticity--the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections over the life span. We learn that the brain is no longer thought of as being hard-wired, that people are no longer believed to be merely products of their genes and environment, and that damaged brains have the remarkable ability to repair themselves. Doidge recounts stories of real people who have benefited from advances in neuroplasticity. He gives us just enough background information about each case so that we find ourselves genuinely caring about these people--each person comes to life, like characters in a fine novel. He tells us stories about stroke victims with major physical dysfunction who were able to recover nearly everything that they lost, and then go on to live normal lives again. There is an astonishing story of a woman who lost her balance mechanisms; with help from neuroplasticians, she was able to rewire her brain to use other senses to achieve the same goal. We learn that neuroplastic physicians can design high-technology devices capable of bringing sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and movement to the paralyzed. We learn about an utterly courageous woman who, completely on her own, was able to rewire her brain to compensate for a large number of severe learning disabilities. Eventually, she goes on to found a very successful network of schools devoted to the methodologies she used. The basic concept is simple: the brain can change itself--rewire itself, so to speak. Often it needs only a little structured help to force it into making the new connections. The implications of this new science are staggering. Imagine retraining the brains of the severely mentally disadvantaged--the learning disabled, the autistic...perhaps even the psychopath--so that they are able to function almost normally in society. Imagine the impact this new science may have on prison rehabilitation, special education, psychiatry, and rehabilitation therapy, to name but a few. This is a truly astonishing new frontier, and Doidge makes the concepts easy and enjoyable. I recommend this book highly.

Helpful, hopeful, heartwarming

I have taken an interest in mind/brain science over the past several months. Having started my nursing career on a medical neurology ward, I "grew up" with the localizationist interpretation of brain function and of the irreversible nature of brain damage. One couldn't help, however, having seen evidence in the course of ones practice that overwhelmingly contradicted the accepted view, so I was very pleased to see that so much has been done lately in researching the plasticity of the brain and its ability to "fix" or at least bypass damage to its structure. The author, a psychologist with a practice in Canada, approaches his narrative almost as a journalist. He has researched the field and interviewed many of those who have been responsible for breakthroughs in mind/brain science. He gives a brief personal biography and characterization of the scientist as an individual, and then goes on to report the results of their research and the contributions that the work has provided individual patients. Here too the persons' lives and experiences are provided so that each becomes real to the reader. In this way the actual advances are given very personal meaning and significance. In my opinion, the book should be a must read for neurology residents--if it or something like it has not already been added to the core curriculum. The research and the individual representative cases provided are an amazing illustration of what has and may be done in the near future of neurological diseases and disorders. Certainly anyone with a neurological disorder will find the information inspiring and hopeful. No longer is he or she expected to learn to "accept" their disability or to "learn to live with it." More active approaches to treatment seem to work far better than had been believed by earlier generations of neuroscientists and physiotherapists. Most important is the issue of providing treatment for disabilities, of extending and intensifying therapies not just to a fixed time decided upon arbitrarily but to a point when actual change and improvement are seen to occur. Some of the illustrative cases are certainly exceptional, maybe even just "lucky" individuals, but many of them derived considerable benefit from the approaches used to treat their disability by researchers. Among the most amazing stories are those of stroke victims who have recovered almost entirely from their neurological damage and returned to an active life. Others are about new technologies for providing sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and greater autonomy to the movement impaired. Some of the findings about the aging brain are especially interesting and hopeful. In fact I was so impressed with some of it, that I gave the book to a friend who also worked in neurology in "the old days" and who is now dealing with the issues of living with her mother whose memory is gradually failing and whose everyday life is getting to be more and more difficult and complicated. A superb book.

The Review That Wrote Itself

A revolution is now sweeping through the field of brain science, and this book chronicles the stories of the men and women who have ushered in a new age. The brain is no longer viewed as a machine that is hard-wired early in life, unable to adapt and destined to "wear out" with age. Instead, we learn that scientists are beginning to unlock the secrets of the powerful, lifelong, adaptability - or "plasticity" - of the brain. The implications are enormous for treating neurological disease, for addressing the aging process and for dramatic improvements in human performance. Author Norman Doidge is a psychiatrist on the Columbia faculty and he tells one spell-binding story after another, as he travels the globe interviewing the scientists and their subjects who are on the cutting edge of a new age. Each story is interwoven with the latest in brain science, told in a manner that is both simple and compelling. It may be hard to imagine that a book so rich in science can also be a page-turner, but this one is hard to set down.

The Leopard Can Change His Spots

Neuroplasticity has recently become a bit of a buzzword. Long the preserve of neuroscientists, this is one of a number of new books on the topic written for the public. I recently reviewed Sharon Begley's superb book - Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain - and this one is in a similar vein. Though it is rather different from Sharon's book in which the main focus was on the changes wrought in the brains of meditators, while this one looks at the extraordinary responses of the brain to injury or congenital absence of sensory organs. Since this book went to press, yet another study, this time from India, has shown that some blind children may be able to regain their sight, an observation that is helping turn a lot of neurology on its head. Neuroplasticity is a topic of enormous practical importance. The increasing evidence that the brain is a highly adaptable structure that undergoes constant change throughout life is a far cry from the idea that we are simply the product of our genes or our environment. Our genes help determine how we can respond to the environment; they do not make us who we are. And we all have untapped potential. This is more than the old nature/nurture debate in a new bottle. It has implications for human potential: how much can you develop your own brain and mind? Can you really teach a child to be a kind, loving person who can dramatically exceed his or her potential? Can psychotherapy really help change your brain for the better? Can we help re-wire the brain of a psychopath? Do we have the right to try? The author is both a research psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst who has interviewed many experts in the field. His book is full of well chosen and detailed stories about scientists and their discoveries as well as case reports of triumph over unbelievable adversity. There is also a good discussion of people who have remarkable abilities despite the absence of key regions of the brain. This book is a good complement to Sharon Begley's and if you can afford it, then I strongly recommend that you get both books. If your interest is more in personal development and its effects on the brain, then Sharon's book will be the one for you. If you are more interested in the science and anecdotes about scientists and some amazing patients, then this book may be the one to go for. Highly recommended. Richard G. Petty, MD, author of Healing, Meaning and Purpose: The Magical Power of the Emerging Laws of Life
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