Sirpa Grierson'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
Jun 27, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: information-text, science
Recommended for: Everyone
Read from June 27 to July 01, 2010

I've always suspected that the brain is malleable; that would stand to reason knowing our eternal nature and due to the fact that it is rumored that at best, we only use 4% of it. Who wouldn't be interested in building themselves a better brain? This books explains many aspects of modern neuroscience, arguing for plasticity, while much of our scientific community is still stuck in Decartean thinking where the brain is "hardwired" with fixed regions that limit human intelligence, growth, healing, and change. In a culture where everyone is bent on a "quick fix" through surgery or drugs and trusts a medical establishment that is too often immersed in neurological nihilism, it is an exceptionally brave endeavor to go against the status quo and write a book such as this. I am not convinced that all of his quoted scientific research is exceptional, but he makes a very compelling case.

Malleability or plasticity as Doidge calls it, is found in four areas:
1. Brain map expansion
2. Sensory reassignment
3. Compensatory masquerade
4. Mirror region takeover
All of these kinds of plasticity are discussed in detail in the book and have been identified by Jordan Grafman, the chief of the Congnitive Neursciences section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH).

My favorite sections include Merzenich's research on dyslexia and other forms of language impairment among children (pp 69-83); the extended mental lifespan section (pp.84-91) that even talks about why we need to walk barefoot as often as possible when we age; a section on imagination and its effects on mental practice including the inhibition of pain (pp. 199-204; a chapter on neurogenesis (Ch 10); and how children caught between two cultures can modify their brains (298-304). Yes, we can become sharper, faster, and more brilliant with age!

Favorite quote: "When Pablo Casals, the cellist, was ninety-one years old, he was approached by a student who asked, "Master, why do you continue to practice?" Casals replied, "Because I am making progress." (257)


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message 1: by Meg (new) - added it

Meg Mom - This book is right up my ally. I really want to read it, but am throat-deep in school prep, so... Can I borrow it next summer? HAHAHA

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