The Brain that Changes Itself

books/brainchanges.jpgBOOK REVIEW

Mind-bending, miracle-making, reality-busting stuff with implications for all human beings, not to mention human culture, human learning and human history.”
                                                                      New York Times

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to read it—just a person with a curious mind.
                                                                      Globe & Mail

THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF
Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
By Norman Doidge, M.D.

Maybe half a dozen times a decade, if we’re lucky, a paradigm-shifting concept comes along that profoundly changes the way we perceive our world. The Brain the Changes Itself does just that.

I bought the book out of mild curiosity, picked it up with the intention of skimming it, and then couldn’t put it down until I had read it from cover to cover. It opens the door to a thrilling new world where we don’t have to be stuck in our brain ruts, and where people with physically damaged brains can heal—without drugs or surgery.

Until recently most of us have deeply misunderstood the brain and underestimated its powers for healing and change. The old paradigm is that after a certain age the brain is largely inflexible. It doesn’t grow new neurons, and once a part of the brain is damaged there’s no way to undo the damage. Dr. Doidge is a researcher and psychiatrist who observed both in his own patients and in the research of others that, given the correct stimulus and instruction, the brain is incredibly flexible and can repair almost any problem. But not in the way you might think, and therein lies the thrill of this book that begins with an almost unbelievable true story on the very first page.

What researchers in this evolving field are discovering is that you can alter your brain anatomy and switch genes on and off with your thoughts. You can lift depression, relieve anxiety, ease pain, raise IQ, reverse senility, and change what you thought were entrenched personality characteristics. For the most part it doesn’t involve special machines or years of study, but a willingness to understand the basic concepts of how the brain changes, and to do the hard work of creating the change.

The Chicago Tribune expresses it well: “Lucid and absolutely fascinating...engaging, educational and riveting. [The Brain that Changes Itself] satisfies, in equal measure, the mind and the heart. Doidge is able to explain current research in neuroscience with clarity and thoroughness. He presents the ordeals of the patients about whom he writes—people born with parts of their brains missing, people with learning disabilities, people recovering from strokes—with grace and vividness. In the best medical narratives—and the works of Doidge... join that fraternity—the narrow bridge between body and soul is traversed with courage and eloquence.”