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

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  12,878 ratings  ·  1,184 reviews
An astonishing new science called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, M.D., traveled the country to meet both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed people whose mental limitations or brain damage were seen as u...more
Hardcover, (James H. Silberman Books), 427 pages
Published March 15th 2007 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Trevor
When I saw this book initially I thought that I would have nothing but unequivocally good things to say about it. I am very fond of ‘brain’ books and prefer to believe that the mind is ‘plastic’ – that it can change itself or re-wire itself. I haven’t got much to pin this hope on. But hope is a good thing. However, in the end my response to this book has been much less black-and-white than I thought it would be.

I’ve also just finished Fooled By Randomness. This has made me hypersensitive to any...more
Rebecca
So far this book has taught me two things.

1. That I am far more affected than I expected to be by the phrase "sew a kitten's eyelid closed for three weeks..after which the kitten remained permanently blind in one eye."

and

2. Using the word "till" instead of "until" is acceptable in scholarly writing.


For the rest of the information, stay tuned.

Okay, so I finished the book. It was a fulfilling emotional rollercoaster for the chronically impressionable and acutely anxious. Every chapter presente...more
Mike
This book is about the plasticity of the brain. That is versus "Localizationism" which holds that the brain is static and each part performs only one function. Modern science, thru the use of MRI, Catscan and observed recoveries of function loss have disproved the long-held notion of localizationism.

The book is really a set of stories about people who have regained or developed senses they either lost or never had. The stories are quite inspiring. For example, one man had a stroke and lost the...more
Marion
This book was absolutely fascinating. I have always been intrigued by how the brain works and, even though I am not a "science" person, I found this book easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable.

The book is about the recent notion that the brain is "plastic," or malleable. Our brain has the ability to change - through learning, through experience, through our thoughts. It was once thought that the brain was "hardwired," and that certain parts of the brain performed specific tasks and that if those...more
Merilee
Feb 21, 2009 Merilee rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers, those interested in the brain
Recommended to Merilee by: Vicki
This book was amazing. Not a real page-turner, but a fascinating look at the brain's ability to rewire itself and grow/change beyond our expectation.

Praise the Lord who made our brains so complex and adept at fulfilling their purpose!

I especially liked the chapters that dealt with autism, and overcoming disabilities. If you are interested in neuroplasticity, brain maps, or just want some ideas about keeping your brain in shape as you age - you may want to read this book.

(I didn't particularly li...more
Lily
Jun 20, 2008 Lily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with questions about the brain.
This book was a very interesting read. I found it to be a pretty "light" read, in that the science mumbo-jumbo had been effectively translated into English. But that doesn't mean Doidge's claims are unsupported--throughout the text, and in extensive notes, he cites published research results, giving the book plenty of credibility.

The Brain that Changes Itself discusses the (apparently controversial) subject of neuroplasticity. Although many of its claims seem perfectly intuitive (through mental...more
Kirsten
This is an absolutely fascinating book about how neurologists have discovered in the past thirty years or so that the human brain is much, much more resilient and plastic than it was believed to be for a long time. Neurologists used to think that everyone's brain map was basically the same, with functions like sight or hearing in pretty much the same place, and that if those sections of the brain were damaged, then the function they controlled would be permanently impaired. This didn't explain,...more
Jafar
The book is about neuroplasticity: the idea that our thoughts and experiences can rewire and change the structure of our brains. This may sound like a revolutionary idea in an age when too many people talk about a brain hardwired by our genes, and the author certainly dramatizes this point and wants to portray his book as representing a novel and ground-breaking idea, but somehow what the book says didn’t come across to me as revolutionary as it claims. Maybe because I’ve already read Ramachandr...more
Nikki
Content note: discusses some examples you may interpret as animal cruelty.

I have pretty mixed feelings about this book. My main response, I guess, is "read with caution". There are some parts which are reasonable, well-founded, and which don't seem to be driven by any bias. Talking about the ways to help people recover from strokes would fall under this category; I was actually a bit surprised that all of the information about brain maps, and the brain's "use it or lose it" approach to neuronal...more
Carol
Aug 07, 2008 Carol rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jeanne, but my Mom all ready has!
Recommended to Carol by: I stole it from Mom ~ you can have it back now . . .
Having struggled through numerous medical and psyhological studies and texts during my college years, I can safely say that this book is amazing in its straight-forward, educated approach, while still speaking a language that anyone can understand. It would have been incredibly easy to have written this using medical terminology and while some of it is used, it is not done in a "speaking down to you" sort of way.

Doidge is clearly fascinated by his topic and, more importantly, wants the reader t...more
Gail
I really wasn't sure how to rate this book as I don't usually read non-fiction. It was remarkably easy to read and understand, well set out with a lot of supportive evidence.

It documented the development of the theory of brain plasticity. How various people had played with the idea over time, gaining little or no support. To down right stonings. That last bit might be a slight exaggeration. :). The topics touched on were fascinating.

Mid book I got a little concerned about some areas covered an...more
C.
Given that I'm unlikely to study a popular science book in order to commit to memory the details, I consider it to be a success if it influences my general knowledge of an area; my understanding of its underlying assumptions or principles. In that respect, this book failed: nothing it said changed or contradicted my understanding of the brain and neuroplasticity.

It was, nonetheless, quite interesting, though badly written in many places, and it did expand my understanding of the breadth of appl...more
محمد العرادي

في تصوري من أهم الكتب التي تعالج نظرتنا للدماغ بعيداً عن التصورات القديمة التي تعتقد بثبات بنية الدماغ - كما هو الحال في باقي أعضاء الجسم- منذ وقت مبكر من العمر وأن خلايا الدماغ عندما تصاب او تموت لا يمكن استبدالها وأصل هذه النظرية أن الدماغ عبارة عن آلة رائعة مثل ماكينة الحلاقة أو المايكرويف يعمل بشكل عظيم ومتقن لكنه لا يستطيع معالجة نفسه ولا ينمو أي أن الجزء المسؤول في الدماغ عن معالجة مايصله من البصر مثلاً يبقى مدى الحياة مسؤول عن معالجة مايصله من خلال البصر. يحاول الدكتور نورمان دويدج في هذا...more
Hannah Crowther
This was a fascinating book discussing the human brain's incredible potential for change -- called plasticity. As I read it, I felt like I was reading about the beginnings of a huge revolution in our understanding of what the brain is capable of and how to cure disorders of the brain.

I felt like I was also able to correct some of my outdated knowledge. For example, the brain does grow new neurons -- you're not born with all you will have for the rest of your life. Also, there are not strict are...more
Shaun
As scientists have learned more about the brain, they've come to reject the idea that it is a fixed hardwired machine as previously thought, but instead a malleable and flexible structure that can change throughout our lifespan in ways that we are only just beginning to appreciate.

Each chapter in The Brain That Changes Itself deals with a theme that explores the plastic nature of the brain and an individual story that highlights that particular theme. From treating stroke victims to those suffer...more
Siri
Mar 26, 2009 Siri is currently reading it
This book is so dense and fascinating! It really makes you realize 1.) how little we know about how the brain works and 2.) how much possibility there is for making huge strides in things like brain injury and mental illness even based on that small amount that we now know.
Jamie
The full title of this book is The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science and in it author Norman Doidage examines the concept of "brain plasticity." Essentially this has to do with the ability of the human brain (and the mouse brain and the chimp brain, for that matter) to change in response to trauma, disease, or some graduate student with a bone saw and a fist full of electrodes. /p>

One of the early examples in the book deals with a woman...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
At least for me, a large portion of my upbringing in anatomy, physiology, and psychology at University lead me to the conclusion that different areas of the brain are hardwired for different things and that from there on out it is pretty much just simon says. Because I knew little about the plasticity of the brain, or much of the notion that this is how the brain worked I think the book really got me around seeing a different side of what a marvelous organ the brain truly is and how complex and...more
Traummachine
What an amazing read! Research shows that your brain doesn't *just* have one center for, say, vision. It's neuroplastic -- if the default section of the brain is damaged, other sections will take over. Blind folks have had skin linked with the vision centers of the brain, and were able to see! Not as well as with their eyes, but they could recognize individual faces by sight. Criss-crossing the senses isn't the only thing studied. Research has shown similar results with balance, and overcoming i...more
Lcbogota
This book made me reexamine what I believed about human behavior, in particular our ability to change. The author refers to neuroscience and brain studies to argue that every time we engage in a behavior, we create or reinforce pathways in our brain. Intuitively we know that the more you practice a skill, the better you get at it. The better you get at something, the less effort it takes. Brain scans demonstrate this process. The concept is known as brain plasticity, which means the brain's abil...more
Willa
Feb 04, 2013 Willa added it
Shelves: 2013
Loved this book! I checked it out from the library, almost didn't read it, but am so glad I did pick it up before the return date. It was particularly interesting to me as the mom of a teenager who had a stroke in infancy. The subject of the book is "neuroplasticity", the ability of the brain to adapt and change in various circumstances. The research is well documented, the stories are fascinating. You meet a woman born with only one hemisphere of her brain, and how she has compensated; a 90 yea...more
Andrea
Good presentation of the concept of neuroplasticity for a lay audience. Each chapter has a personal story to attach a concept to - I personally found this annoying as I wanted more science and less anecdote, but I realise that for popular appeal it is necessary.

Most of the concets presented were robustly supported by the evidence, but the chapters on OCD and chronic pain I thought were somewhat biased. The former was presented as overwhelmingly as an organic disorder through cherry picking of t...more
Jodi
The book gives the message that all sorts of amazing things can be done through lots of brain retraining work, but doesn't claim that it is a quick and easy cure for everything either, which I appreciated.

Some people are taking the idea of neuroplasticity and running with it and maybe going a bit too far and claiming that we can retrain our brains to be any way we want (such as choosing our sexuality), and to use it to cure completely every neurological disease. It is disturbing. But this book d...more
Donna
A literally life-changing book, The Brain That Changes Itself uses case studies of people who have suffered brain injury to illustrate how the brain changes throughout life, adapting to new conditions with amazing speed and efficiency. This is the kind of book that, while you’re reading it, seems relevant to every conversation and experience.

I happened to be reading it while taking a long-anticipated vacation. For months, I’ve imagined each stop along the way. Now, confronted with the real rath...more
Clara
I was wonderfully surprised by this excellent book, which I devoured last weekend when Attila was in Boston. I'd never heard of Dr. Doidge, and I'm endlessly skeptical of, as well as extremely interested in, (intended to be) plebeian accounts of brains. The brain that changes... is profoundly insightful, brilliantly integrating anecdote with historical and contemporary accounts of systems neuroscience research. Highlights include celebrating Dr. Edward Taub's life's work and exploring personal m...more
Megan Baxter
Oliver Sacks, he ain't. Despite the back cover blurb from Oliver Sacks, this is definitely a lesser book. There are some interesting things in here, and may be worth a read, even though there was one chapter that I thought was just terrible. But don't go looking here for Sacks' deep humanism and warmth. This is much more the distant case history, although the science he's talking about is fascinating.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enf...more
Botan Latif
Amazing book, other than just sharing what might cause a serious change in the course of Neuroscience and Psychology, it also talks about great success of the applications of this new discovery, and for the first time I see Psychology explained by real Neuroscience other than staying in the realm of different opinions and view points.

Really great book, life changing to a degree,
Recommend it 100% to anyone who works in the Medical field, or interesting in reading about new subjects.
David
A truly fascinating, accessible book about the plasticity of the brain. Most interesting to me were the clever approaches that some psychologists invented, for solving or mediating various mental/physical problems. Although this book is not of the "self-help" variety, it contains a number of approaches that have been used for improving brain functioning.
Iona  Main Stewart
This is an important, comprehensive book about neuroplasticity. This concept refers to the fact that, as is now recognized, the brain can change its structure and in fact does so with each different activity it performs, “perfecting its circuits so it was better suited to the task it had”. The damaged brain can often reorganize itself so that when one part fails, another can often substitute. Thinking, learning and acting can turn our genes on and off.

We are introduced to Paul Bach-y-Rita, one o...more
Erin
There's a lot of research going on about the idea of the brain as "plastic". This book talks about different scientists and the research they have done in this area. Especially intriguing was reading about people who have suffered damage to their brains in some form and how the different therapies out there have helped them to lead better lives. As someone with a hearing impairment, I was also intrigued by how different areas in the brain can take over for those that might not work so well. I do...more
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Norman Doidge, M.D., is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, researcher, author, essayist and poet.

He is on the Research Faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, in New York, and the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry.

He is a native of Toronto.
More about Norman Doidge...
The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation

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“Psychoanalysis is often about turning our ghosts into ancestors, even for patients who have not lost loved ones to death. We are often haunted by important relationships from the past that influence us unconsciously in the present. As we work them through, they go from haunting us to becoming simply part of our history. (243)” 19 likes
“All of us have worries. We worry because we are intelligent beings. Intelligence predicts, that is its essence; the same intelligence that allows us to plan, hope, imagine, and hypothesize also allows us to worry and anticipate negative outcomes. (164)” 15 likes
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