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

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

by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Sharon Begley


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060988470
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/14/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 249,763
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)

About the Author

Jeffrey M. Schwartz M.D. is an internationally-recognized authority on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and is the author of the bestseller Brain Lock. He is a Research Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Award-winning writer Sharon Begley is the science columnist for the Wall Street Journal; before that she was senior science writer for Newsweek. She lives in Pelham New York.

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.

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The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 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.
motjebben on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D., with help from the talented Sharon Begley, has written a sort of masterpiece exploring the mind's effect on the brain. He restores volition as agent in what has been predominantly a materialistic reduction in the explanation of the mind. In this terrific book, he explores how history has reduced the view to mainly one that states that the mind arises solely and deterministically from the biological functioning of the brain.What is particularly fascinating is his assertion that this view is wrong - that the mind, to a great exent, actually "creates the brain" - which he supports by his own well-known work with helping (and studying) patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as well as related work by other imminent researchers, such as Michael Merzenich, Edward Taub, and many others. He indicates that OCD is particularly valuable to studying the mind and brain, because OCD sufferers are cognizant of the faulty nature of their obsessions and compulsions, even if unable to control them. Hence, there is an opportunity to study what appears, at first, as a mind/brain dichotomy in OCD sufferers, and Schwartz has helped patients use their "independent observer" (mindfulness) ability to build mindful awareness and attention in a four step program to re-label, re-attribute, re-focus, and revalue to overcome their disorder and actually physically change their brains. Volition in choosing what what pays attention to is what effects the change, and is, according to the great American psychologist William James, an essentially moral act. The mind and brain appear to be both separate and united at once.There is brief periodic mention of Buddhist prescient observations about much of what neuroscience is now discovering - many parallels can be noted.Schwartz explains how he and physicist Henry Stapp have collaborated to theorize how quantum physics explains the probabilistic window of opportunity in which volition and attention can act to change the brain.It is somewhat difficult to do justice to, and accurately explain, the concepts in this book in a short review, because the book itself carefully builds in a way that I cannot do in a few sentences. I therefore recommend that one read this very interesting book!
kpmartin on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I enjoyed hearing Dr. Schwartz speak in person on this topic at the U of MN some years ago and finally got a hold of this book. The concepts and evidences presented are very interesting and I think immediately useful. The writing itself is a bit repetitive, but I'm glad I stuck it out. The measurable data and the relationship to quantum theory are fascinating.BTW, I wa able to check this out for free as an .epub from the Saint Paul Public Library system.
MarkKeeffe on LibraryThing 8 days ago
Fascinating subject capable of changing our approach to life. However this book is heavy going. It is far too technical for the everyday reader, especially with its heavy emphasis on quantum physics.
TomSlee on LibraryThing 3 months ago
One central thesis of the book is very attractive - that our brain continues to grow and change as we get older, and that there is something we can do about it. The most interesting part was the discussion of treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, which was too short.But when Schwartz gets onto the bigger canvas of mind-brain relationship that he so wants to paint on, he is just sloppy. He portrays himself and the people he has worked with as rebels against an establishment, but I think he is just wrong.His take on Buddhism is limited. His ideas about "quantum consciousness" are very simplistic. His interpretation of other, more subtle, thinkers are, in the cases I know, wrong. His discussions of mind-brain relationship are sloppy in the extreme.If you follow this by something like "Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction" by Susan Blackmore, you'll see the difference. Blackmore says far more in a much shorter book.Disappointing.
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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.
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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.
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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.