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

( 88 )

Overview

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, and proving that it is, in fact, possible to change your brain. Psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, M.D., traveled the country to meet both the brilliant scientists ...

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

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Overview

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, and proving that it is, in fact, possible to change your brain. Psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, M.D., traveled the country to meet both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity, its healing powers, and the people whose lives they’ve transformed—people whose mental limitations, brain damage or brain trauma were seen as unalterable. We see a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, blind people who learn to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, stroke patients learning to speak, children with cerebral palsy learning to move with more grace, depression and anxiety disorders successfully treated, and lifelong character traits changed. Using these marvelous stories to probe mysteries of the body, emotion, love, sex, culture, and education, Dr. Doidge has written an immensely moving, inspiring book that will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
For years, scientists have insisted that the human brain cannot be changed, that brain damage is irreversible, and that behavior tied to brain function is stubbornly immutable. Now a revolutionary science called neuroplasticity overturns this discouraging doctrine, uncovering startling evidence that the brain can rewire itself after damage or disuse and offering new hope for victims of stroke, trauma, disease, and behavioral disorders. In this book, psychiatrist Norman Doidge introduces the pioneering practitioners of neuroplasticity and presents the extraordinary stories of real people whose lives have been transformed by its applications. Written in a lively anecdotal style and suffused with an optimism readers are sure to find contagious, The Brain That Changes Itself offers a rare look at the human side of science.
Globe & Mail
It takes a rare talent to explain science to the rest of us. Oliver Sacks is a master at this. So was the late Stephen Jay Gould. And now there is Norman Doidge. A terrific book. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to read it -- just a person with a curious mind. Doidge is the best possible guide. He has a fluent and unassuming style, and is able to explain difficult concepts without talking down to his readers. The case study is the psychiatric literary genre par excellence, and Doidge does not disappoint. Buy this book. Your brain will thank you.
Barnes & Noble online
Dr. Norman Doidge shows how patients have overcome deficits caused by trauma, strokes, prenatal problems, and disease. The stories are as instructive as they are inspiring.
Jeff Zimman
Doidge 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. —Posit Science, e-newsletter
New York Times
The power of positive thinking finally gains scientific credibility. Mind-bending, miracle-working, reality-busting stuff, with implications, as Dr. Doidge notes, not only for individual patients with neurologic disease but for all human beings, not to mention human culture, human learning and human history.
Globe & Mail
It takes a rare talent to explain science to the rest of us. Oliver Sacks is a master at this. So was the late Stephen Jay Gould. And now there is Norman Doidge. A terrific book. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to read it -- just a person with a curious mind. Doidge is the best possible guide. He has a fluent and unassuming style, and is able to explain difficult concepts without talking down to his readers. The case study is the psychiatric literary genre par excellence, and Doidge does not disappoint. Buy this book. Your brain will thank you.
Discover
A masterfully guided tour through the burgeoning field of neuroplasticity research.
Chicago Tribune
Lucid and absolutely fascinating... engaging, educational and riveting. It satisfies, in equal measure, the mind and the heart. [Doidge is] able to explain current research in neuroscience with clarity and thoroughness. Presents the ordeals of the patients about whom [he] writes . . . 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.
The Washington Post
Readers will want to read entire sections aloud and pass the book on to someone who can benefit from it...links scientific experimentation with personal triumph in a way that inspires awe for the brain, and for these scientists' faith in its capacity.
Discover
Excellent. A masterfully guided tour through one of neuroscience's hottest areas. Along with eminently clear accounts of the relevant concepts and experiments, [Doidge] gives well-turned descriptions of personalities and in-the-moment reactions. Intimate. Appealing.
Psychology Today
A woman who perpetually feels like she's falling, a man addicted to hard-core pornography, an amputee with excruciating pain in his phantom elbow: all cured thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to rewire itself. Doidge provides a history of the research in this growing field, highlighting scientists at the edge of groundbreaking discoveries and telling fascinating stories of people who have benefited. An engaging read for anyone interested in the science behind how our surprisingly moldable brains are changed by our experiences.
Publishers Weekly

For years the doctrine of neuroscientists has been that the brain is a machine: break a part and you lose that function permanently. But more and more evidence is turning up to show that the brain can rewire itself, even in the face of catastrophic trauma: essentially, the functions of the brain can be strengthened just like a weak muscle. Scientists have taught a woman with damaged inner ears, who for five years had had "a sense of perpetual falling," to regain her sense of balance with a sensor on her tongue, and a stroke victim to recover the ability to walk although 97% of the nerves from the cerebral cortex to the spine were destroyed. With detailed case studies reminiscent of Oliver Sachs, combined with extensive interviews with lead researchers, Doidge, a research psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at Columbia and the University of Toronto, slowly turns everything we thought we knew about the brain upside down. He is, perhaps, overenthusiastic about the possibilities, believing that this new science can fix every neurological problem, from learning disabilities to blindness. But Doidge writes interestingly and engagingly about some of the least understood marvels of the brain. (Mar. 19)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The newest buzzword in brain science seems to be neuroplasticity—the idea that the adult brain is capable of positive change. For decades, scientists and doctors thought little could be done for victims of strokes and accidents because brain cells in adults were locked into specific functions and didn't change or grow. Doidge (psychoanalysis, Columbia Univ. Psychoanalytic Ctr.) tells the story of the scientists whose work has proven that neuroplasticity is, in fact, possible, with examples of patients suffering from strokes, paralysis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, blindness, learning disabilities, and other neurological and psychiatric problems who have been helped. Sharon Begley covers the same ground in her upcoming Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential To Transform Ourselves, but Begley actually demonstrates how the topic is important to the average person. With stories of those whose lives have been saved or improved through training based on neuroplastic theories, Doidge's book is much more engaging for lay readers. Recommended for most libraries.
—Mary Ann Hughes
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of anecdotes about doctors and patients demonstrating that the human brain is capable of undergoing remarkable changes. Research psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Doidge (Columbia Univ. Psychoanalytic Center) calls this growing awareness of the brain's adaptability "the neuroplastic revolution," and he profiles scientists whose work in neuroplasticity has changed people's lives. He begins with Paul Bach-y-Rita, a pioneer in brain plasticity who has helped stroke victims improve their balance and walking. Doidge also interviews Michael Merzenich, a researcher and inventor who claims that brain exercises may be as useful as drugs in treating schizophrenia and has also developed training programs for the learning-disabled and the aging. The author talks with V.S. Ramachandran, a neurologist successful in treating phantom-limb pain, and he visits the Salk Laboratories in La Jolla, Calif., to report on the implications of current research on human neuronal stem cells. Some stories focus on nonscientists, such as the brain-damaged woman who developed her own brain exercises and then founded a Toronto school for children with learning disabilities, and a woman who functions well and has extraordinary calculating skills despite her brain having virtually no left hemisphere. The author draws on his own psychoanalytic practice to illustrate how the brain's plasticity can also create problems, e.g., when early childhood trauma causes massive change in a patient's hippocampus. One appendix explores the issue of how culture shapes the brain and is shaped by it; another takes a brief look at changing ideas about human nature and its perfectibility. Somewhat scattershot, but Doidge's personalstories, enthusiasm for his subject and admiration for its researchers keep the reader engaged.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143113102
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Series: James H. Silberman Bks.
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 38,450
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Norman Doidge, M.D., is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and New York Times bestselling author. He is on the Research Faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, in New York, and on the faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry. He and his work have been profiled and cited in, among others, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, Scientific American Mind, Melbourne Age, The Guardian, The Harvard Review of Psychiatry, Psychology Today, O The Oprah Magazine, and the National Review.  
 
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Table of Contents


Note to the Reader     xv
Preface     xvii
A Woman Perpetually Falling...: Rescued by the Man Who Discovered the Plasticity of Our Senses     1
Building Herself a Better Brain: A Woman Labeled "Retarded" Discovers How to Heal Herself     27
Redesigning the Brain: A Scientist Changes Brains to Sharpen Perception and Memory, Increase Speed of Thought, and Heal Learning Problems     45
Acquiring Tastes and Loves: What Neuroplasticity Teaches Us About Sexual Attraction and Love     93
Midnight Resurrections: Stroke Victims Learn to Move and Speak Again     132
Brain Lock Unlocked: Using Plasticity to Stop Worries, Obsessions, Compulsions, and Bad Habits     164
Pain: The Dark Side of Plasticity     177
Imagination: How Thinking Makes It So     196
Turning Our Ghosts into Ancestors: Psychoanalysis as a Neuroplastic Therapy     215
Rejuvenation: The Discovery of the Neuronal Stem Cell and Lessons for Preserving Our Brains     245
More than the Sum of Her Parts: A Woman Shows Us How Radically Plastic the Brain Can Be     258
The Culturally Modified Brain     287
Plasticity and the Idea of Progress     313
Acknowledgments     319
Notes and References     323
Index     409
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 88 )
Rating Distribution

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(57)

4 Star

(14)

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(11)

2 Star

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(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 89 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2007

    Easy to understand!

    This book is the best book that I have read on neuroplasticity. The Author maintains your attention and interest by combining his personal stories with real research in an easy to understand format. I would recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested in neurology or psychology.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A book that will be equally enjoyed by skeptics and those seeking hope.

    "To put this review in context, I have an interest in science, but not the level of understanding to read and comprehend the literature that real scientists read. This book gave me the feeling that I was eavesdropping on conversations with leading pioneers of brain science, and Doidge's writing style helped me to understand what was being said.

    This book is a fascinating journey into the field of neuroplasticity which is based on a wave of significant discoveries beginning in the 60's that has overturned a belief held for centuries--- that brain functions were fixed at certain parts of the brain (localization). The new understanding of the brain is that it "can change its very structure with each different activity it performed, perfecting its circuits to a task at hand."

    Although this is not another new-age self help espousing repackaged Norman Vincent Peale, a New York Times review aptly frames a key takeaway as "The power of positive thinking finally gains scientific credibility...Straddles the gap between science and self-help."

    The author, Norman Doidge, doesn't approach this science theoretically, but rather through focusing each chapter on a specific area of psychiatry, medicine, and education, and telling the stories of practictioners that are using the theories of plasticity to revolutionize the how we diagnose, treat, and further the understanding of the human potential. With each story, he provides a relevent history lesson on significant experiments and scientific pioneers whose work preceded and either advanced or derailed the scientific understanding of the brain.

    The book opens with the story of Cheryl, whose sensory organ that controls our sense of balance failed her. She had a perpetual sense of falling and couldn't even walk without clinging to a wall. The conventional view had been that cases like these were hopeless and often resulted in suicide. We learn how sending electrical impulses to her tongue rewired her brain to understand when she was upright. The treatment, "cured" her.

    Then there was a story of a women who was regarded as disabled used the concepts of neuroplasticity to overcome what had been previously understood as limitations. This followed with stories on how plasticity has changed the way we view causes of deafness, dsylexia, autism, cognitive decline related to aging, sexual attraction, love, obsessions, addictions, and many other areas where the brain plays a central role in our functioning.

    One unexpected personal takeaway of this book was a new understanding of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. I was an undergraduate psychology major in the 70's when the humanistic movement prevailed and Sigmund Freud and his theories on fixations were only brought up in my psych classes for humor and entertainment purposes. In various chapters, Doidge points out the parallels of Freud's theories and plasticitity. It really shook the foundation and successfully shattered the rigid opinions I held on Freud.

    As a person whose ability to make a living depends on a fairly decent functioning brain, I was hoping to get out of this book some words of encouragement that the economic value of my cognitive function could be extended to compensate for the years I will be shortchanged by my 401K. I was not disappointed. Although that's not what the book is about, I learned enough about the leaders in this field to separate the genuine from the quacks.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    A bit technical, but interesting

    I am a nurse and have worked on Neurology floors in hospitals, as well as on a stroke and brain damage floor in a rehab hospital.I have always been interested in the brain so I buy "Brain Books".We were taught that the brain is basically hard-wired and cannot recover from brain damage readily,but this book sets straight the fact that the brain is very adaptable and in fact, is capable of remarkable recovery. Not all the stories grabbed my attention, but most did and I skipped around if one, or another story did not interest me. The book takes a lot of focus, as it is technical. I liked the book and I sometimes refer back to it as a reference type book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    A MUST READ

    stimulating, compelling, incredibly interesting and relevant...a must read for all particularly as we age and lose sight of the power of the brain.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2008

    A book that changed my life.

    Through case studies and current research, Doidge's facinating, well-written and well-researched book explains the miraculous human brain with its almost unlimited potential. I'm asking everyone I know to read it.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful book about brain plasticity!

    Dr. Doidge writes an incredibly fascinating book about brain plasticity; he promotes his belief and findings that one's brain is not static or fixed; i.e., that one can change the neurons and thus, change/make new neurological synaptic connections.
    His examples are touching, because he is talking about patients and his experiences, which buttress his tenet on plasticity.
    A definite read for the philosopher and physicist. A book that all should read; it will alter your perspective about finite world, which we do not live in by the way...
    Moreover, I enjoyed this book so much that after buying the original in paperback, I gave it to a friend, recommended to three others, whom read it and professed its positiveness, and I bought a hard copy to put in my collection/library.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2012

    I would definitely recommend this book to absolutely anyone. Th

    I would definitely recommend this book to absolutely anyone. The author presents the information in a clear and understandable way. There is a great balance of scientific data and heartfelt case studies. From the cover it appears as just another book about the brain but as you read it you realize that you can apply the information of neuroplasticity to your everday life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2012

    Highly recommended-I could not put it down

    This is the first book I read in a long time that I would recommend that everyone should read. It is fascinating how these researchers decided to think outside the box and made all of these incredible advances in Neurology that have impacted patient care and changed how we now see the brain. There is even a story about how one researcher worked with his own father after a stroke. He had been thru the usual round of Physical Therapy with little progress and his speech was severely affected. Because, the researcher would not accept this and constructed his own therapy on how to make him walk and talk again, his father not only improved, he was able to go back to a very demanding job. It opens up a Pandora's box on how patients will be treated in the future.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2012

    Great!

    It is so inspirational and informative. I have a family member who has had a recent brain injury, and reading this has helped me realize the possibilities of healing and recovery. Thanks

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2012

    Changed my life!

    This book has opened my eyes to the endless possibility our mind holds. It taught me not to limit myself and push through perceived impossibilities. Neuroplasticity is the future and this book reitrrates that fact.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Great

    Read this

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2012

    Wonderful read

    I have read quite a few books on the topic of neuroscience and this is by far my favorite. It is easy to read and understand even if you have a limited understanding of how the brain works. This is one of the books that really inspired me to go on to study neuroscience and psychology in my education. I highly recommend it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2011

    Should be required reading for every teacher!

    This is a wonderful book! It is not too technical and full of interesting stories of real patients and how their brains "learned" to change. Particularly interesting is the girl who was born with half a brain and how her half brain took over most of the jobs of the missing half. I have recommended this book to a lot of people, including a psychologist and parents with autistic children. Everyone should read it!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 29, 2010

    Inspiring!

    With the aging baby boomers and as a survivor of childhood trauma, this book offers much hope for healing and health. I'm glad that the researchers and medical field are heading in this direction. I'm so inspired that there is progress in how the brain heals. The individual stories of the people in the book are inspiring. Its amazing how people whose lives were so tragic have been restored to health. AMAZING STUFF!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010

    Engaging and inspiring

    Super interesting book about our ability to change our own brains through neuroplasticity. Offers a lot of insight into the way people think and develop, and it also has a lot of touching stories of success and hope for people with mental issues from blindness to OCD.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2010

    A Book for the Ages

    The subject matter of this book is nothing short of fascinating. The implications of what this means for the future with regards to brain/body health is incredible. This book brings hope to those suffering with various disabilities.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent book.

    I have been amazed with this book, it is a book that has brought to my mind new thoughs and new beliefs about what we can do with our brain, and how we can change our lives and our quality of life knowin better our own brain.

    I really enjoyed the chapter about love and attraction.

    Very good.

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  • Posted July 13, 2009

    Eye Opener!

    The brain is an extraordinary organ, this book opens the reader's mind as to the innerworkings of the brain in plain language.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good introduction to neuroplasticity

    This was one of the first books I've read on the topic of neuroplasticity. Since then, I've read everything I could get my hands on, and this book by Doidge remains a strong favorite. His enthusiasm for the topic, and interesting examples and history of the underlying science, should get much credit for 'hooking' me on this field of research.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2009

    Life changing

    Well written for non-professionals. Real life applicability. Really made me more introspective.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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