THE BRAIN CAN CHANGE ITSELF. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature.
Norman Doidge, MD, a psychiatrist and researcher, set out to investigate neuroplasticity and met both the brilliant scientists championing it and the people whose lives they’ve transformed.
WE LEARN THAT OUR THOUGHTS CAN SWITCH OUR GENES ON AND OFF, ALTERING OUR BRAIN ANATOMY
The result is this book, a riveting collection of case histories detailing the astonishing progress of people whose conditions had long been dismissed as hopeless. We see a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, a woman labeled retarded who cured her deficits with brain exercises and now cures those of others, blind people learning to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, painful phantom limbs erased, stroke patients recovering their faculties, children with cerebral palsy learning to move more gracefully, entrenched depression and anxiety disappearing, and lifelong character traits altered.
Doidge takes us into terrain that might seem fantastic. We learn that our thoughts can switch our genes on and off, altering our brain anatomy. Scientists have developed machines that can follow these physical changes in order to read people’s thoughts, allowing the paralyzed to control computers and electronics just by thinking. We learn how people of average intelligence can, with brain exercises, improve their cognition and perception in order to become savant calculators, develop muscle strength, or learn to play a musical instrument, simply by imagining doing so.
Using personal stories from the heart of this neuroplasticity revolution, Dr. Doidge explores the profound implications of the changing brain for understanding the mysteries of love, sexual attraction, taste, culture and education in an immensely moving, inspiring book that will permanently alter the way we look at human possibility and human nature.
There are so many things our minds and bodies are capable of. We can pick up vibrations in the air that travel as longitudinal waves to the tiny membranes in our ear canals called ear drums which then vibrate with corresponding amplitude to cause an other wave to be generated in out ear which then passes through several structures including the tiniest bones in our body into a fluid-containing area which contains tiny sensory hairs connected to cells which fire off electro-chemical impulses in direct proportion to each vibration and all of this passes along our auditory nerves to a centre in our brain that processes this information and consequently we interpret the original vibrations in the air as sound.
I like this book because it gives an insight into the brain that I think many people are not aware of. Many are not aware of the inner workings of the brain and how knowledge of these things can impact daily life. The Brain That Changes Itself is a book that presents complex neuroscientific concepts in layman’s terms while still making it a very good read for everyone, even the most learned of persons in that regard. It’s an inspiring book, read like a story book, a novel… that gives accounts of people’s personal and collective experiences as they went through trials and challenges in life as a consequence of problems in the brain. The frustration of scientists in that field and the excitement and pleasure of revelations which change people’s lives… often forever.
The most interesting concept in this book, which is actually its focus, is that of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to alters its own structures upon stimulation by emotions, thoughts, actions and generally experience. There are many different factors that affect this process and it occurs in many different ways to the extent where people who are blind can begin to ‘see’ sound and perceive space. It might sound crazy but in this book blind people see, the deaf hear, people who could not walk are seen walking… sounds like a book full of miracles and actually it is because the brain is a miracle in human flesh. Man is still trying to unravel the complexities of the brain and are being more fascinated by the day. Neuroscience is a hot subject right now and for good reason. Not only does it show HOW and WHY the brain changes but how these facts can be applied even in your life. Websites such as http://www.lumosity.com/ specialise in what they call ‘brain training programmes’ that one can use to amplify and improve on areas of cognitive processing: speed, memory, flexibility (the ability to switch between two unrelated tasks in a certain time), attention and problem solving. People who have participated in programmes such as FastforWord have not only shown vast improvements in processing skills for the training they have taken but brain scans show that the brains of the participants actually do change! The participants also testify to improvement of their entire quality of life and many people who were thought to be permanently impaired such as a man who was almost completely paralysed by a stroke that killed off 98% of his brain’s connection with his body is reported to be climbing mountains and enjoying life after being taken through certain processes to reshape his brain to function.
The book also goes in depth about topics such as love and sexuality (i’m not talking about Godly love here) and explains how socialisation of a child and life experiences help to shape a person’s brain and thus provide an explanation for behavioural patterns later on in life. It gives a deep understanding of the effects of experience in shaping a person and how simple things like thinking about something can actually cause physical changes in the body. The book also teaches you not to judge people… by the way they present themselves or behave because we would not know the experiences, thoughts and emotions that all coalesce to make the person that we’re looking at.
The book is a fascinating read for ANYONE who is interested in the brain, brain improvement, finding information about overcoming cognitive impairment or just curious.
(I have the actual book on my Kindle and in paperback).