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

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,113 Ratings  ·  136 Reviews
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 Sch
ebook, 432 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2001)
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"Sitting somewhere between purely mental events and purely sensory ones is this vast sea of life called experience." (p. 250) And somewhere between the worst of bad popular science writing and New Age pseudo-philosophy lies this horrendous mess. Where to begin?

I have so many problems with this book that it's a challenge to put them together in a meaningful and organized fashion. Here's my best shot.

First, this book is supposedly intended to be a science book. However, there is not a single foo
Jul 03, 2010 Ella rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody -- run away from it!
Shelves: ellalib-old
Horrible, pseudo-science, pathetic, psychobabble, nonsensical, just plain wrong and really badly written.

If you would like some junk science nonsense to spout whilst downing canapes at a dinner party, then this book is for you. But I'm warning you that someone will overhear you and think, a la Woody Allen in Annie Hall, "Jesus, make this person shut up! He doesn't know what he's talking about!"

To the author "mental force" (some of you may have heard this same idea called "soul" or "mind" or "f
Mar 01, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is extremely informative in many aspects of the physical and mental processes of the brain and mind. Although Dr. Schwartz emphasized that the intent of his experiments, understandings and knowledge was to understand obsessive-compulsive disorder in the brain, he includes examples of experiments and findings that reach other scopes of psychology and neurology.

Dr. Schwartz devotes a chapter to the basic explanation of the literal topography of the brain itself, touching on different pr
Take one good, or even very good book. Stick it in a blender with an awful one and set to puree.

Well, okay, I'm speaking metaphorically here, so don't do that. But that at least gives an idea of what I thought of this one. The sections of the book related to the author's work with OCD sufferers, his descriptions of similar work on those with Tourette's Syndrome and major depression and his basic narrative of discoveries related to the brain and what has come to be believed related to its flexib
Dec 26, 2010 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jeffrey Schwartz has written an impassioned argument for the neuroplasticity of the brain, based on his work with OCD patients and his practice of Buddhism. I have enormous admiration for anyone who brings together Eastern and Western ideas with skill and thoughtfulness, as Schwartz has done here, but when the work creates a genuine breakthrough in treating mental illness, then the originator deserves the highest possible praise. Millions of people suffer tragically from OCD, and the desensitiza ...more
Jul 17, 2010 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book. I learned how people with severe conditions can sometimes overcome the debilitating effects of stroke, OCD, and so on.

Toward the end of the book, the author describes how quantum mechanics may be a key component to volition and free will. But, I am not completely convinced of the connection with quantum mechanics. I understand how the act of observation of an atom can resolve its (previously probabilistic) state. And the analogy between "observation" and "attention" is
Dec 29, 2012 Audra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I quite enjoyed this book and its exploration of the relationship between mind, brain and quantum mechanics. It highlights the importance of attention and concentration in, for instance, acquiring a new skill or remapping faulty brain patterns. I would recommend this book as a sequel to "The Brain that Changes Itself"; it is more technical than the former book and delves deeper into brain structure.

I wish that the author had dwelled more on how meditation and buddhism can help in overcoming men
May 31, 2016 Bethany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was fascinating and hopeful. I read the author's other book "You are Not Your Brain" and found the tone tos cheesy and pop-self-helpish. It also left me with a question about the difference between the mind and the brain. When I found this title, it seemed it would answer my question--and it did.

The tone of this book is much more academic, though still intended for lay people. It wanders through the history of experiments that have led neuroscientists to their current understanding of
Mohammed Al-Humaikani
Wonderfully written by a highly experienced researcher. Revolutionary thoughts on neuroplasticity that are yet to be fully accepted by the scientific community. The wonderful blend of buddhist philosophy with deep knowledge of neuroscience is what has been established here. The pragmatic four step concept with the critical idea of mental force is highly applicable and strongly scientific to overcome habits that one is willing to change.
A beautiful chapter on Free Will and Free Won't that presen
Čavle Margarin
a really weirdly written book. on the one hand it tries so hard to present itself as a serious scientific work, but the New Agey zealous and anecdotal tone doesn't really help in taking it seriously. also, it could have really used some editing, I mean I UNDERSTOOD YOUR ACHIEVEMENT IN OCD THERAPY THE FIRST TIME YOU EXPLAINED IT, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO REPEAT IT ON EVERY SECOND PAGE OF THE DAMN BOOK. still, the quantum mechanics introduction is alright, as well as the summary of different schools of ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Counsel182 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably more like 3.5 stars but I'd give this book the benefit of the doubt. A seemingly 'easy' philosophical issue: is there a duality between mind and brain doesn't seem so simple to neuroscientist. Do mental forces affect the brain by altering wave functions causing us to act differently? The authors exhaustively explore this and other issues as it pertains to amputees, individuals with brain traumas as well as OCD patients. There also is a rather interesting chapter on the infamous (notorio ...more
This book is all over the place. The ideas are very intriguing and worth thinking about, but the execution is very uneven in quality. Some chapters (such as the one on Schwartz' own OCD-research) are to-the-point and interesting, others (like the last few) bring up fascinating ideas, but do not manage to convince me on either their grounds, workings or implications, while yet others are tangential to the subject at best and very distracting (such as the Silver Spring monkeys chapter).
The introdu
Aug 11, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you would like to know more about the human brain, I highly recommend this book. I read it a number of years ago after hearing the author interviewed and I have remembered it ever since. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD, is a research psychiatrist at UCLA. His descriptions of how the brain is formed will astound you! The stories of how nerves are reclaimed and reused (in the event of a limb amputation, for example) are amazing. Did you know that violinists have a much larger portion of their brain dev ...more
Jul 24, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding! Schwartz while working with OCD patients and developing a therapeutic intervention for them discovered what he calls "self-directed neuroplasticity" (mental force). He works with the physicist Henry Stapp to establish the mechanics of self-directed neuroplasticity in quantum physics and connects this with the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.In all of this, he makes a case for the human mind and human will having impact on the human brain: in other words, the mind can change the bra ...more
Nov 07, 2015 Smorgan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A moderately interesting book about the neurophysiological changes that accompany psychiatric treatment for OCD, combined with a ghastly and absolutely illogical appeal to quantum physics for the existence of free will.
I read this shortly after having read. 'The Brain that Changes Itself'. In some ways, I preferred parts of this book because rather than being based on single case studies, this book seemed to present summaries of results from larger studies. Thus, I expect the more evidence-suppo
Jan 28, 2015 Rick rated it really liked it

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 lif

This one gets a solid meh.
The descriptions of psychology are interesting and the narrative he creates out of our intellectual movement from a kind of behavioralist rigid idea of the brain to our contemporary understanding both of neuroplasticity and the mind are compelling.
At the same time, I found the idea of using quantum physics to be productive, though not in the way Schwartz intended. He makes a good argument for a non-deterministic view of the brain (contrary to, say, Daniel Dennett) bas
I'm not a fan of the writing style; the author could have said the same thing in half the space. It is congested with round about details, and unnecessary words, that make it all very long-winded, and very INDIRECT! It's like reading run-on poetry about neuroscience (you must overlook the whole sentence in favor of the feeling), which takes more energy (and patience). It helps if you already have an understanding of neurobiology. That said, this book is interesting, it first explores OCD (obsess ...more
Jan 21, 2009 Julieta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, neuroplasticity is just fun to say. It makes you sound all educated when you drop it in a conversation. But the truth of the matter is that Jeffrey Schwartz is able to explain a complicated subject to the common folk and teach us to utilize the benefits of science. So, where is your mind???? Find that out and you hold the keys to the kingdom. The answer is actually quite simple.
Jun 15, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jason Shawartz does an amazing job at walking the reader through what is happening in the brain when we are paying attention and apply focus to something. He details the Neuroscience behind what takes place as we create new habits in how we think and shows what free will really is. Controlling what we choose to think about and focus on. ... Its the proof behind James Allen's classic As a Man Thinketh.
Dec 21, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book explains the ability of the mind, or the will, to influence the brain. This has application for language learning. We can and do influence the ability of our brains to develop new neural circuits to cope with new languages. Language learning is more a matter of attitude than aptitude, I have always felt. This book supports this view.
Mustafa Basree
Interesting read, though I'm not close to be sold on the thesis of the book. The author essentially argues for the idea of mental force as a way for mind to alter the brain. His main example is treating OCD patients through conscience, willful effort to change the neural circulatory of their brain. Attention, he argues, is mind's way of changing the brain. Attention gives rise to free will which is another word for volitional force! The author uses quantum theory and a long list of experiments t ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited to get into this book, expecting to learn a bit about how the brain, quantum mechanics, and Buddhist philosophy works. It turned out that the book wouldn't get much deeper than the working knowledge I already have of the later two, and the discussions of the former are so technical as to be difficult to grasp even after several re-listens.

This might not be a great book to listen to in Audiobook form, and it's also important to note that I'm very much a novice when it comes t
Bob Collins
A research psychologist offers a successful program for OCD patients that led to evidence of neoplacticity in the brain as the changes these people made in their behavior resulted in verifiable changes in their brains. Schwartz delves deeply into the mind/brain problem, classical determinism and quantum physics (his explanation of quantum physics is among the most accessible I've yet read - and this not an accessible topic, even for the physicists who work in the field!). He deals with the issue ...more
When this book focuses on research into neuroplasticity, it's a five-star read and utterly absorbing. But then the author strays off into a long argument that goes something like this: "OMG, there's been this big moral decline since no one thinks there's free will anymore because brain science and I must find a way to stop the decline by showing there's a mysterious mental force apart from the brain due to some sort of quantum physics thingy." And those parts of the book are tedious and painful ...more
Sylvie Carter
It is several years since I read this and it was not my favourite book, probably because of its style of writing, possibly its breadth versus depth. At the time I was enjoying a few other writers on this topic a lot more!

Jeffrey's work in his field, has been heralded as thought provoking and valued. His keynote conference speaking, research and SCARF model, others have cleverly marketed into the corporate world for leading change. This book created some awareness and learning on the topic of the
Jimmy Ele
Jun 02, 2015 Jimmy Ele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Nonwithstanding my lapse of attention ironically induced by this book at page 323 at the precise chapter entitled "Attention Must Be Paid" I have decided to give this book a 5 star rating. Once I mustered up the willpower and attended to the rest of the book using the power of Mental Force I was able to induce a change in the plasticity of my brain, and my boredom dissipated in the same way a photon's momentum would, should a person decide to try and pin down its position. Many controversial sub ...more
John Martindale
This book was really interesting, he makes the case that the mind is not merely an illusion, but it can have a causative force on the brain, which is quite a controversial stance to take in the scientific community. Personally it was quite a pleasure to hear Schwartz opposing the materialistic, deterministic and behaviorist view point which are still orthodoxy in the cult of scientific naturalism. But yeah, a lot of the book is the history of brain science and how a couple of folks accidentally ...more
Michael Johnston
Jul 27, 2011 Michael Johnston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was fascinated by this book. From neurology to quantum physics to existential philosophy, the author covers enormous territory in pursuit of an interesting idea - that the mind exists as a force of nature independent of the the brain. Scientific determinists have long argued that the chemical and synapitic make-up of the brain determines who we are. That all of our behaviors and beliefs are essentially pre-determined by the chemical and synaptic make-up of the brain.

Schwartz rebels against th
Mark Derderian
Jul 24, 2010 Mark Derderian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Contains a good introductory overview of the history of the philosophy of mind and some related contemporary issues in philosophy as well as some interesting speculative explorations of the relationship of theoretical physics to consciousness to brain structure. Since it is written by a psychiatrist with an obvious interest in the actual functioning of human beings and a knowledge of brain anatomy and physiology that adds to its scope beyond the more theoretical issues involved. However, I think ...more
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Research Psychiatrist,
Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences,
University of California, Los Angeles
More about Jeffrey M. Schwartz...

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“[T]here is no stronger influence on human values than man's belief about his relationship to the power that shapes the universe. When medieval science connected man directly to his Creator, man saw himself as a child of the divine imbued with a will free to choose between the good and evil. When the scientific revolution converted human beings from the sparks of divine creation into not particularly special cogs in a giant impersonal machine, it eroded any rational basis for the notion of responsibility for one's actions.” 1 likes
“Each connection that neuroscientists forged between a neurochemical and a behavior, or at least a propensity toward a behavior, seemed to deal another blow to the notion of an efficacious will.” 1 likes
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