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Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves [Kindle Edition]

Sharon Begley
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Is it really possible to change the structure and function of the brain, and in so doing alter how we think and feel? The answer is a resounding yes. In late 2004, leading Western scientists joined the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala, India, to address this very question–and in the process brought about a revolution in our understanding of the human mind. In this fascinating and far-reaching book, Wall Street Journal science writer Sharon Begley reports on how cutting-edge science and the ancient wisdom of Buddhism have come together to show how we all have the power to literally change our brains by changing our minds. These findings hold exciting implications for personal transformation.

For decades, the conventional wisdom of neuroscience held that the hardware of the brain is fixed and immutable–that we are stuck with what we were born with. As Begley shows, however, recent pioneering experiments in neuroplasticity, a new science that investigates whether and how the brain can undergo wholesale change, reveal that the brain is capable not only of altering its structure but also of generating new neurons, even into old age. The brain can adapt, heal, renew itself after trauma, and compensate for disability.

Begley documents how this fundamental paradigm shift is transforming both our understanding of the human mind and our approach to deep-seated emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. These breakthroughs show that it is possible to reset our happiness meter, regain the use of limbs disabled by stroke, train the mind to break cycles of depression and OCD, and reverse age-related changes in the brain. They also suggest that it is possible to teach and learn compassion, a key step in the Dalai Lama’s quest for a more peaceful world. But as we learn from studies performed on Buddhist monks, an important component in changing the brain is to tap the power of mind and, in particular, focused attention. This is the classic Buddhist practice of mindfulness, a technique that has become popular in the West and that is immediately available to everyone.

With her extraordinary gift for making science accessible, meaningful, and compelling, Sharon Begley illuminates a profound shift in our understanding of how the brain and the mind interact. This tremendously hopeful book takes us to the leading edge of a revolution in what it means to be human.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks and some of the world's leading neuroscientists all gather once a year at a conference on the latest discoveries in neuroplasticity: the study of how the human brain can change itself. (This is the second book the subject due out in March, along with Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself). This remarkable conference serves as the center of Wall Street Journal science columnist Begley's account of neuroplasticity. Until recently, the reigning theory was that neurons in the brain didn't regenerate. Begley walks readers through the seminal experiments showing that in fact new neurons are created in the brain every day, even in people in their 70s. With frequent tangents into Buddhist philosophy, Begley surveys current knowledge of neuroplasticity. Most interesting is a series of experiments with Buddhist adepts who have spent over 10,000 hours meditating. What these experiments show is tantalizing: it might be possible to train the brain to be better at feeling certain emotions, such as compassion. No less interesting are the hurdles the scientists face in recruiting participants; yogis replied that if these scientists wanted to understand meditation, they should meditate. Despite the title, the book holds no neuroplasticity tips, but it is a fascinating exploration of the ways the mind can change the brain. (Mar. 13)Corrections: The author of The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession (Reviews, Dec. 18, 2006) is Ken Alder. The title of Heather Ewing's biography of James Smithson is The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution and the Foundation of the Smithsonian (Reviews, Jan. 1).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“There are two great things about this book. One is that it shows us how nothing about our brains is set in stone. The other is that it is written by Sharon Begley, one of the best science writers around. Begley is superb at framing the latest facts within the larger context of the field. She also gives us the back stories that reveal how human the process of science research is. This is a terrific book.”

Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers


“Reading this book is like opening doors in the mind. Sharon Begley brings the reader right to the intersection of scientific and meditative understanding, a place of exciting potential for personal and global transformation. And she does it so skillfully as to seem effortless.”

--Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience


“It is very seldom that a science in its infancy is so skillfully unpacked that it reads like a detective novel. The fact that this science includes collaborative efforts of neuroscientists, psychologists, contemplatives, philosophers, and the full engagement of the genius of the Dalai Lama is not only fascinating, but uplifting and inspiring.   This book lets you know that how you pay attention to your experience can change your entire way of being.”

--Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses


“I have meditated for 40 years, and have long felt that the potential of mind training to improve our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being has barely been tapped.  Thanks to Sharon Begley’s fascinating book, though, that is about to change.  As human beings, we really do have inner powers that can make a world of difference, particularly if our goal is not merely to advance our own agendas, but to cultivate compassion for the benefit of all living beings.”  

--John...

Product Details

  • File Size: 1300 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (November 12, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000WJVMJM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,999 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
583 of 601 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About the brain revolution January 29, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Contrary to what the title may suggest, this is not a training manual for the brain. The book is a fascinating and convincing account of recent discoveries in brain neuroplasticity (i.e. its `pliability') even into old age, and the amazing implications of such discoveries. Sharon Begley states, "Yes, the brain can change, and that means we can change." For those looking for a magic bullet, she adds that it is not easy. "Neuroplasticity is impossible without attention and mental effort."

Those who have worked in fields such as psychology, education, gerontology and various social services will no doubt have observed unexplained and seemingly miraculous events with their clients and students. This book gives answers to their questions. For example, working as an occupational therapist in gerontology a number of years ago, I was stunned when an elderly (and chronic) stroke victim suddenly raised her paralysed arm to bat a balloon in a lighter version of volley ball. There was an "aha" moment when I read the chapter "New neurons for old brains."

This book also gives credence to the Superlearning trend of a decade ago, which met with a great deal of scepticism at the time. There were those, like myself, who used it anyway, purely on instinct, and met with amazing outcomes we could not explain. Anecdotal, of course, but Begley's book gives the following example some weight: While in my sixties, I decided to test out on myself what I had successfully used on the children. I undertook papers at university after forty years break from education, but reducing the study time by two thirds (using the Superlearning protocol.) It worked far better than I had dared hope; the 'grandmother' amongst students a third her age achieving the 90th percentile.
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274 of 284 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Study of Neuroplasticity January 15, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although this book is based upon the Mind and Life Institute's 2004 Conference with the Dalai Lama, this is not a book about Buddhism, but rather a study of neuroplasticity; addressing the question of whether or not the brain is fixed or flexible in its structure and capabilities. For years, we have been taught that the development and enhancement of the brain stops at a very young age and that it is not possible to change it. Recent studies, however, have shown that the brain can be re-wired through various cognitive techniques. While some of this research deals with the impact of meditation on brain structures, there is also very interesting material concerning the ways in which the brain accomodates for various disabilities such as blindness or loss of hearing.

If you are interested in the latest developments for treating dyslexia and depression, or in ways to prevent mental deterioration brought about by aging, this is an excellent place to look. This book demonstrates that you can teach old dogs new tricks and that you can combat genetic determinism through cognitive methods, rather than psychotropic drugs (not something that the makers of Prozac want you to know). Although the subjects explored are complex, Ms. Begley does a great job of keeping the book interesting without oversimplification.
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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marketing a title that is somewhat misleading February 1, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been practicing meditation and am a keen follower of mindfulness techniques for the last twenty years. I have believed in the transformative potential for meditation mediated neuroplasticity, which is the main theme of the book, for much of that time. I was also aware of the collaboration of H.H. the Dalai Lama with neuroscientists over the last few years to discover the nexus between science and Buddhism.

I thought the book did a credible job of covering these areas, albeit in a non exciting way (at least for me).

I think the title is misleading. "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" implies the delivery of a actionable personal strategy , or at least the promise of action. Instead, the book delivers a fairly dry synopsis of the current state of science and the relative nature of that science to the Dalai Lama's conception of the interface of science and the ancient Buddhist system relying on insight derived through meditative practice. Those are two distinctly different foci for the potential reader who may be looking for different things based solely on the title.

One implies the book will deliver a personalized strategy. The other implies a review of the science and the amazing potential for all of us.

The book fails to deliver on the first, and is a reasonable guide to the second.

So to my evaluation of the book:
* Be sure you read the description carefully of the contents before you use the "1-click" button. Be sure this is what you want.
* If you want the science, this is a good overview.
* If you want something actually actionable immediately, research Amazon's listing and buy something written by John Kabat-Zinn or Thich Nhat Hanh and just begin with their simple suggestions.
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134 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Intersection of Mental Discipline and Neurobiology January 23, 2007
By AskNed
Format:Hardcover
In this lucidly written, very readable and compact volume, science writer Sharon Begley explores the recent convergence of learning about the mind and the brain through two very different approaches: Western science, in particular neuroscience and medical studies of the brain; and Eastern (Buddhist) philosophy, including mental training via meditation. As the book explains, recent research has documented changes in the brain that were once held to be impossible, changes wrought by conscious, focused mental effort on the part of the brain's owner. This emerging science has opened up wide vistas of possibility, ranging from mitigation of mental disorders that originate in brain (dys)function, such as OCD or the after-effects of stroke, to improving one's character by becoming more humane and compassionate. This book makes you think humanity may have a future after all, despite so much current evidence to the contrary, if we are wise enough to harness this powerful new knowledge to expand the common goodness of people everywhere.

The book's central message is a little like the old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb--mind/brain change comes to an individual who really wants to change, and has the will to exert the needed effort. But techniques of mental discipline can be learned, and with proper motivation we can truly "re-wire" ourselves, potentially to eliminate violent or selfish impulses, for instance. The Dalai Lama is one leader who has already grasped the significance of the new science of neuroplasticity. Let us hope many others can follow in his footsteps. I highly recommend this book, which is readily understandable even for those with a minimal scientific background.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is awesome. For the non-believers and haters
This book is awesome. For the non-believers and haters, it is full of scientific experiments that indicate it is entirely possible to change your brain in drastic, permanent ways. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Michael E Randall
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
ok
Published 6 days ago by Pakelekia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I like it very much. I am majoring in Psychology and interested in Brain and behavior.
Published 19 days ago by jorge m hernandez-valdes
1.0 out of 5 stars Nope
Hated it. Too technical for what I thought I wanted/needed.
Published 21 days ago by Dianne
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
ok
Published 21 days ago by James L Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional insight into the Mind and Life meeting and into the...
Sharon Begley's clear and insightful account of the Mind and Life XII meeting of scientists and the Dalai Lama is important to read for anyone interested in their own personal... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rolf Ahrens
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretensious and Outdated
Better information is available today. This book is not done well and over thought. It seems comprehensive, but it lacks in the simplistic of actual and individual... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amber B Skylar
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
One of the only two books I continue to refer back to to keep an open mind. As a teacher I have found it to be very enlightening and helpful
Published 9 months ago by Barbara E. Rios
1.0 out of 5 stars Intersting topic but a laborious read
This book was suggested reading for a meditation class. It contains chapter after chapter of scientific findings on brain neuroplasticity or the possibility of "retraining" the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mary B.
1.0 out of 5 stars Plan to spend long hours reading
Very slow moving book. Have spent tons of hours reading and still have not finished the book. I would definitely never read the book for pleasure.
Published 10 months ago by M. Giggee
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More About the Author

Sharon Begley, science columnist for The Wall Street Journal, inaugurated the paper's 'Science Journal' in 2002. She was previously the senior science writer at Newsweek, covering neuroscience, genetics, physics, astronomy, and anthropology. The co-author of The Mind and the Brain, she has won many awards for her articles She is a frequent guest on radio and television, including The Charlie Rose Show, Today Weekend, CBS's The Early Show, and Imus in the Morning. She lives in New Jersey.


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Re: "The Mind & The Brain" by JEFFREY SCHWARTZ, M.D. and Sharon Begley
When most authors write books their intention is to share what they have learned in order to help others, and many do not mention other author's books, for whatever their reasons may be.

The most important thing to remember with OCD is that whenever the compulsion arises, no matter HOW much... Read More
Jan 20, 2007 by Barbara Rose |  See all 4 posts
Is "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" advertisement?
Haven't read the book yet, but heard an interview with the author on NPR. Though it makes it sound like a how-to book, the title is actually a pretty good informal definition for neuroplasticity, the actual subject of the book.
Feb 2, 2007 by John Condron |  See all 9 posts
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