The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force

The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force

3.8 22
by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Sharon Begley

View All Available Formats & Editions

A groundbreaking work of science that confirms, for the first time, the independent existence of the mind–and demonstrates the possibilities for human control over the workings of the brain.

Conventional science has long held the position that 'the mind' is merely an illusion, a side effect of electrochemical activity in the physical brain. Now in

…  See more details below


A groundbreaking work of science that confirms, for the first time, the independent existence of the mind–and demonstrates the possibilities for human control over the workings of the brain.

Conventional science has long held the position that 'the mind' is merely an illusion, a side effect of electrochemical activity in the physical brain. Now in paperback, Dr Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley's groundbreaking work, The Mind and the Brain, argues exactly the opposite: that the mind has a life of its own.Dr Schwartz, a leading researcher in brain dysfunctions, and Wall Street Journal science columnist Sharon Begley demonstrate that the human mind is an independent entity that can shape and control the functioning of the physical brain. Their work has its basis in our emerging understanding of adult neuroplasticity–the brain's ability to be rewired not just in childhood, but throughout life, a trait only recently established by neuroscientists.

Through decades of work treating patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), Schwartz made an extraordinary finding: while following the therapy he developed, his patients were effecting significant and lasting changes in their own neural pathways. It was a scientific first: by actively focusing their attention away from negative behaviors and toward more positive ones, Schwartz's patients were using their minds to reshape their brains–and discovering a thrilling new dimension to the concept of neuroplasticity.

The Mind and the Brain follows Schwartz as he investigates this newly discovered power, which he calls self–directed neuroplasticity or, more simply, mental force. It describes his work with noted physicist Henry Stapp and connects the concept of 'mental force' with the ancient practice of mindfulness in Buddhist tradition. And it points to potential new applications that could transform the treatment of almost every variety of neurological dysfunction, from dyslexia to stroke–and could lead to new strategies to help us harness our mental powers. Yet as wondrous as these implications are, perhaps even more important is the philosophical dimension of Schwartz's work. For the existence of mental force offers convincing scientific evidence of human free will, and thus of man's inherent capacity for moral choice.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schwartz (A Return to Innocence), a UCLA psychiatrist and expert on treating patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), teams up with Begley, a Wall Street Journal science columnist, to explore the mind/brain dichotomy and to discuss the science behind new treatments being developed for a host of brain dysfunctions. Building on the work presented in Schwartz's first book, Brain Lock, the authors begin by demonstrating that OCD patients are capable of rechanneling compulsive urges into more socially acceptable activities and that, by doing so, they actually alter their brains' neuronal circuitry. By presenting a wide array of animal and human experiments, Schwartz and Begley show that similar neuroplasticity is possible in stroke victims, often leading to a return of function previously thought impossible. The medical results and treatments they summarize are exciting and deserve widespread attention. In a chapter entitled "Free Will and Free Won't," the authors turn to the philosophical, examining the implications neuroplasticity might have on the differences between mind and brain; they also discourse on the existence of free will. Unfortunately, their integration of quantum mechanics and Buddhism into a search for a mechanism to explain the patterns scientists have been discovering is too superficial to fully engage readers. Nonetheless, a great deal in this book is sure to motivate discussion and more research. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Matter of Mind

Nature in her unfathomable designs has mixed us of clay and flame, of brain and mind, that the two things hang indubitably together and determine each other's being, but how or why, no mortal may ever know.
-- William James
Principles of Psychology, Chapter VI

What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind.
-- T. H. Key

Of all the thousands of pages and millions of words devoted to the puzzle of the mind and the brain, to the mystery of how something as sublime and insubstantial as thought or consciousness can emerge from three pounds of gelatinous pudding inside the skull, my favorite statement of the problem is not that of one of the great philosophers of history, but of a science fiction writer. In a short story first published in the science and sci-fi magazine Omni in 1991, the Hugo-winning author Terry Bisson gets right to the heart of the utter absurdity of the situation: that an organ made from basically the same material ingredients (nucleated, carbon-based, mitochondria-filled cells) as, say, a kidney, is able to generate this ineffable thing called mind. Bisson's story begins with this conversation between an alien commander and a scout who has just returned from Earth to report the results of his reconnaissance:

"They're made out of meat."


"There's no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but thesignals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they're made of meat."

"Maybe they're like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their lifespans, which didn't take too long. Do you have any idea of the lifespan of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope, we thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there is a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat."

"So ... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture, or do I have to start all over?"


It was some 2,500 years ago that Alcmaeon of Croton, an associate of the Pythagorean school of philosophy who is regarded as the founder of empirical psychology, proposed that conscious experience originates in the stuff of the brain. A renowned medical and physiological researcher (he practiced systematic dissection), Alcmaeon further theorized that all sensory awareness is coordinated by the brain. Fifty years later, Hippocrates adopted this notion of the brain as the seat of sensation, writing in his treatise on seizures: "I consider that the brain has the most power for man ... The eyes and ears and tongue and hands and feet do whatsoever the brain determines ... it is the brain that is the messenger to the understanding [and] the brain that interprets the understanding." Although Aristotle and the Stoics rejected this finding (seating thought in the heart instead), today scientists know, as much as they know anything, that all of mental life springs from neuronal processes in the brain. This belief has dominated studies of mind-brain relations since the early nineteenth century, when phrenologists attempted to correlate the various knobs and bumps on the skull with one or another facet of personality or mental ability. Today, of course, those correlations are a bit more precise, as scientists, going beyond the phrenologists' conclusion that thirty-seven mental faculties are represented on the surface of the skull, do their mapping with brain imaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which pinpoint which brain neighborhoods are active during any given mental activity.

This has been one of the greatest triumphs of modern neuroscience, this mapping of whole worlds of conscious experience -- from recognizing faces to feeling joy, from fingering a violin string to smelling a flower -- onto a particular cluster of neurons in the brain. It began in the 1950s, when Wilder Penfield, a pioneer in the neurosurgery of epilepsy, electrically stimulated tiny spots on the surface of patients' brains (a painless procedure, since neurons have no feeling). The patients were flooded with long-forgotten memories of their grandmother or heard a tune so vividly that they asked the good doctor why a phonograph was playing in the operating theater. But it is not merely the precision of the mental maps that has increased with the introduction of electrodes -- and later noninvasive brain imaging -- to replace the skull-bump cartography beloved of phrenologists. So has neuroscientists' certainty that tracing different mental abilities to specific regions in the brain -- verbal working memory to a spot beneath the left temple, just beside the region that encodes the unpleasantness of pain and just behind the spot that performs exact mathematical calculations -- is a worthy end in itself. So powerful and enduring has been Alcmaeon's hypothesis about the seat of mental life ...

The Mind and the Brain. Copyright � by Jeffrey M. Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
of-course More than 1 year ago
It took me a long time to read this because it is so thick with information, but it was so incredibly fascinating and informative that it was worth the struggle it presented at times.
FaceMan More than 1 year ago
Written 8 years ago, this book is still relevant to today's thoughts on brain plasticity. Dr. Schwartz writes about his findings on neurological changes and synaptic connections. It is very interesting especially if one has read any of the books listed below. He writes well and one will not find oneself bored or "grinding" through the read. His also appends many wonderful and thought provoking quotes to start his chapters; e.g., "I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actual philosophy" (255). ~ Max Born, My Life and My Views
Robinhoodbook More than 1 year ago
I think the author is a genius, this book is about the Mind, and this tension with the concept brain, the author uses philosophical, scientific knowledge and real experiments to explain how the Human Brain works. It talks about ideas, perception, and the new recent experiments. It is a big book, takes into consideration important elements of the Medical research, also some psychological points. This book is to digest slowly, very slowly to understand our own brain and other´s how they react and act in the past and the present.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a sophomore in high school, and I picked this book up from my school library. I am thinking of taking Psych AP senior year, so I thought this book looked interesting. I have learned so much by reading this book, I think anybody should read it. This book is easy-to-read for the most part and it's actually fun to read. I can actually carry on conversations with adults and they are surprised by how much I understand the brain. This book explains disorders and provides in-depth explanations for experiments dealing with the brain. If you don't know anything about the brain, boy, will you learn a lot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley provide an amazing account of the voltional mind and the neuroplastic brain. This work comes at a time when some but not all leading neuroscientists are attempting to convince us that we are nothing more than bags of neurons. This work should be read by all serious students of the mind and brain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Marcelo Febo More than 1 year ago
The build up was good and the author presented some interesting ideas. However, there was a lack of real substance towards the end. Tackling the problem of the mind from the point of view of quantum mechanics requires a description of the formalism involved (the mathematical relation between mind and quantum physics). This was absent. I do applaud the author for tackling the problem head on and finding a clinical importance of this line of research.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Transcendently cogent.with historical snapshots tinged with human interest. The authors know how to communicate with the unscientific street waif when, in personal judgment, this book constitutes science. But then, does science exclude anything? The beauty of this treatise: the impassioned Columbo will finish page 375 with questions having direction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I appreciated Schwartz's book especially for his interest in religion and philosophy. His broad perspective I found greatly refreshing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i bought this book because the few pages i'd read in the store seemed fascinating. when i got home, i never put it down. more than anything i've read or been taught previously, this book has explained the mysteries of my anxiety and depression disorders. though this book isn't directly about either disorder, the studies and results apply equally to both. it is also a fascinating discovery of how the brain functions and a hopeful reuinion of our existance as wilfull, sentient beings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is just as scientific as creationism, and in fact comes from the same people. Move along, no science to see here.