Kirsten's Reviews > The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
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's review
Feb 13, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: from-library, non-fiction, psych-and-neuroscience
Read in February, 2008

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, however, people who were born with sections of their brain missing, yet still were able to live normal or almost normal lives, nor did it explain why some people who suffered strokes were able to regain skills that should have been lost forever. Doige profiles some of the most innovative neurologists in the field, and discusses case histories of individuals who exemplify the brain's plasticity.

There was only one section of the book where I felt Doige was dodging some issues. In the chapter on sexuality, he discusses the role that neuroplasticity might feature in the case of fetishes or addiction to pornography. He stops short, however, of the risky topic of what neuroplasticity might mean in the case of sexual orientation. I understand that this is a controversial topic and that he (and other researchers) might want to avoid it, but it struck me as rather disengenuous to gloss over it completely.
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