- File Size: 1838 KB
- Print Length: 448 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (March 15, 2007)
- Publication Date: March 15, 2007
- Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000QCTNIW
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#21,609 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
- #5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Counseling & Psychology > Cognitive Neuroscience & Cognitive Neuropsychology
- #9 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Science > Biological Sciences > Anatomy
- #10 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Counseling & Psychology > Neuropsychology
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (James H. Silberman Books) 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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- Length: 448 pages
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
- Page Flip: Enabled
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Top Customer Reviews
Scientists used to believe that the brain was relatively fixed and unchanging -- some of them still believe that -- but recent research shows that the brain is much more mutable than biologists, psychologists, physicians (and any other scientists who studied brains) had ever thought.
For example, anecdotal evidence had long supported the idea that blind people hear better than sighted people, but scientists pooh-poohed this idea, saying that there was no mechanism for that to occur. Well, they recently discovered that the area of the brain usually called the visual cortex is taken over for auditory processing in blind people. So blind folks have twice as much brain space devoted to processing sounds, which means that they really do hear better, and now we know why. Scientists were astounded to discover that the "visual" cortex was really just brain space that could be used for anything.
Psych 101 and Bio 101 textbooks often have a picture in them that shows which areas of the brain control which bodily functions, and this is all presented as fixed and unchanging. Imagine our surprise to learn that the brain can make fairly large shifts in just a few days -- for example, if you blindfold somebody for five days, the area of their brains that's usually called the visual cortex starts using large sections of itself to process touch and sound, and this change is made in as little as two days. Two days!
The book is not just theoretical, though -- the author is interested in the theory, but he's even more interested in how all of this can be applied to better the lives of real people. He talks about people with strokes who've learned to walk again, people with vestibular problems who've learned to substitute something else for their missing vestibular system, people who've been helped with ADHD, autism, retardation, and many other "incurable" conditions by altering their brains.
The downside of the book is that the author is a Freudian, so there are some annoying comments about how Freud knew it all along, but if you can overlook that, it's all fascinating. The author does an excellent job of drawing the reader in with a story about a real person, then elaborating on the ideas by talking about studies that show the basic principles and their implications, then explaining how this can be used to ameliorate or even cure conditions that were considered incurable.
This book blew me away!
The chapter titles will give you more information about the subject matter:
1. A Woman Perpetually Falling...: Rescued by the Man Who Discovered the Plasticity of Our Senses
2. Building Herself a Better Brain: A Woman Labeled "Retarded" Discovers How to Heal Herself
3. Redesigning the Brain: A Scientist Changes Brains to Sharpen Perception and Memory, Increase Speed of Thought, and Heal Learning Problems
4. Acquiring Tastes and Loves: What Neuroplasticity Teaches Us About Sexual Attraction and Love
5. Midnight Resurrections: Stroke Victims Learn to Move and Speak Again
6. Brain Lock Unlocked: Using Plasticity to Stop Worries, Obsessions, Compulsions, and Bad Habits
7. Pain: The Dark Side of Plasticity
8. Imagination: How Thinking Makes It So
9. Turning Our Ghosts into Ancestors: Psychotherapy as a Neuroplastic Therapy
10. Rejuvenation: The Discovery of the Neuronal Stem Cell and Lessons for Preserving Our Brains
11. More than the Sum of Her Parts: A Woman Shows Us How Radically Plastic the Brain Can Be
Appendix 1: The Culturally Modified Brain
Appendix 2: Plasticity and the Idea of Progress
My main concern with the book is that much of the argument seems to imply that the brain is infinitely malleable with the right exercises and effort. Though Doidge does note at points that plasticity is not infinite, he also seems to endorse the very American cultural script that individuals have total control over everything that happens to them. If babies are properly stimulated they will all be geniuses! If ADHD children go through the proper attentional exercises they will suddenly excel! If the elderly go to brain gyms they will never lose their memory! These, unfortunately, are primarily openings for marketers rather than scientific realities. Of course we have some control, and the key findings of neural plasticity research have been helpful in supporting that, but there are some things that are not just about effort--but also about care and community. Overall, I did find this book interesting and worth reading, but also found myself worried about what seemed to me strategic exaggeration.
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