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The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science Paperback – December 18, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
For years the doctrine of neuroscientists has been that the brain is a machine: break a part and you lose that function permanently. But more and more evidence is turning up to show that the brain can rewire itself, even in the face of catastrophic trauma: essentially, the functions of the brain can be strengthened just like a weak muscle. Scientists have taught a woman with damaged inner ears, who for five years had had "a sense of perpetual falling," to regain her sense of balance with a sensor on her tongue, and a stroke victim to recover the ability to walk although 97% of the nerves from the cerebral cortex to the spine were destroyed. With detailed case studies reminiscent of Oliver Sachs, combined with extensive interviews with lead researchers, Doidge, a research psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at Columbia and the University of Toronto, slowly turns everything we thought we knew about the brain upside down. He is, perhaps, overenthusiastic about the possibilities, believing that this new science can fix every neurological problem, from learning disabilities to blindness. But Doidge writes interestingly and engagingly about some of the least understood marvels of the brain. (Mar. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“The power of positive thinking finally gains scientific credibility. Mind-bending, miracle-making, reality-busting stuff...with implications for all human beings, not to mention human culture, human learning and human history.”
-The New York Times
“Brilliant...Doidge has identified a tidal shift in basic science...The implications are monumental.”
-The London Times
“Fascinating. Doidge’s book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain.”
-Oliver Sacks, MD
“Two years ago, when the journal Cerebrum at the Dana Foundation in the US updated its list of great books about the brain for the general reader, it found there were already 30,000 brain-related books in English. Aided by scientific advisers and readers, it produced a new list - with The Brain That Changes Itself at No. 1.”
-The Melbourne Age
“Lucid and absolutely fascinating. It satisfies in equal measure the mind and heart.”
-The Chicago Tribune
“Doidge turns everything we thought we knew about the brain upside down.”
“Brilliant...This book is a wonderful and engaging way or re-imagining what kind of creatures we are.”
-Jeanette Winterson, novelist, Order of the British Empire, Guardian, Best Book of 2008
“Superb. Brilliant. I devoured it.”
-V.S. Ramachandran, MD, PHD, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, Univeristy of California, San Diego, Author of Phantoms of the Brain
“Doidge... is a master ... at explaining science to the rest of us. Doidge is the best possible guide. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to read it, just curious about your brain. Buy this book. Your brain will thank you.”
-The Globe and Mail
“Readers will want to read entire sections aloud and pass the book on to someone who can benefit from it. [Doidge] links scientific experimentation with personal triumph in a way that inspires awe”
“Doidge tells one spell-binding story after another as he travels the globe interviewing the scientists and their subjects who are on the cutting edge of a new age. It may be hard to imagine that a book so rich in science can also be a page-turner, but this one is hard to set down.”
-Jeff Zimman, Posit Science, e-newsletter
“The most readable and best general treatment of this subject to date.”
- Michael M. Merzenich, Ph.D., Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences University of California at San Francisco
“A riveting, essential book… These stories are most emotionally satisfying. Doidge addresses how cultural influences literally "shape" our brain. [And]….our response to the world around us is not only a social or psychological phenomenon, but often a lasting neurological process.”
— Montreal Gazette, Liam Durcan, MD, Neurologist & Novelist
“A hymn to life.”
“The Brain That Changes Itself...is without question the most important book of the year, and maybe the most important book we have ever read.”
-Kiril Sokoloff, 13D Research Inc
“This books is like discovering that the earth isn’t flat.”
-Gretel Killeen, Sun Herald, “The Books That Changed Me”
“A rich banquet of brain-mind plasticity, communicated in a brilliantly clear writing style.”
-Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., Head, Affective Neuroscience Research, Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, Northwestern University;
“A masterfully guided tour through the burgeoning field of neuroplasticity research.”
- Discover Magazine
“Norman Doidge has shown that what and how we think can change our brains. He has illuminated the foundations of psychological healing.”
- Charles Hanly, Ph.D.President, International Psychoanalytical Association
“Astonishing. This book will inevitably draw comparisons to the work of Oliver Sacks. Doidge has a prodigious gift for rendering the highly technical highly readable. It's hard to imagine a more exciting topic--or a better introduction to it.”
- Kitchener Waterloo Record
“Perfect for fans of Oliver Sacks”
-Quill & Quire
“Beautifully written and brings life and clarity to a variety of neuropsychiatric problems that affect children and adults... It reads a bit like a science detective story and -you do not need a Ph.D. to benefit from the wisdom imparted here.”
- Barbara Milrod, M.D. Psychiatry, Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York
“A panoramic examination of plasticity's profound implications. “
-Toronto Daily Star
“An eloquently written book about the boundless potential of the human brain.
- The Jewish Week
“Norman Doidge has written a fascinating, highly readable account of the new brain science.”
-John Cornwell, Literary Review, England
“You really should read this book... this remarkable work will lead us to see ourselves in a new light.”
-Mail on Sunday, England
“An 'essential primer’ for anyone who wants to better understand their own brains and the considerable advances in neuroscience of the past two decades.”
“A book that everybody should read... it is nothing short of miraculous. Get it!”
-Yoko Ono, Yoko Reads Book Recommendations
“Fascinating … Doidge has accomplished a rare feat. He has written a book that accurately conveys cutting-edge scientific discoveries while simultaneously engaging both scientific and popular audiences.”
“A remarkable book ... a highly readable exploration of a branch of science that has the potential to change all our lives.”
“Why isn't this book on the top of the bestseller list of all time? The recognition that the brain in plastic and can actually change itself with exercise and understanding is a huge leap in the history or mankind, far greater than landing on the moon.”
- Jane S. Hall, International Psychoanalysis
“Only a few decades ago, scientists considered the brain to be fixed or ‘hardwired’ and considered most forms of brain damage, therefore, to be incurable. Dr. Doidge, an eminent psychiatrist and researcher, was struck by how his patients’ own transformations belied this and set out to explore the new science of neuroplasticity by interviewing both scientific pioneers in neuroscience, and patients who have benefited from neurorehabilitation. Here he describes in fascinating personal narratives how the brain, far from being fixed, has remarkable powers of changing its own structure and compensating for even the most challenging neurological conditions. Doidge’s book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain.”
- Oliver Sack, MD, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
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Top Customer Reviews
The author, a psychologist with a practice in Canada, approaches his narrative almost as a journalist. He has researched the field and interviewed many of those who have been responsible for breakthroughs in mind/brain science. He gives a brief personal biography and characterization of the scientist as an individual, and then goes on to report the results of their research and the contributions that the work has provided individual patients. Here too the persons' lives and experiences are provided so that each becomes real to the reader. In this way the actual advances are given very personal meaning and significance.
In my opinion, the book should be a must read for neurology residents--if it or something like it has not already been added to the core curriculum. The research and the individual representative cases provided are an amazing illustration of what has and may be done in the near future of neurological diseases and disorders. Certainly anyone with a neurological disorder will find the information inspiring and hopeful. No longer is he or she expected to learn to "accept" their disability or to "learn to live with it." More active approaches to treatment seem to work far better than had been believed by earlier generations of neuroscientists and physiotherapists. Most important is the issue of providing treatment for disabilities, of extending and intensifying therapies not just to a fixed time decided upon arbitrarily but to a point when actual change and improvement are seen to occur. Some of the illustrative cases are certainly exceptional, maybe even just "lucky" individuals, but many of them derived considerable benefit from the approaches used to treat their disability by researchers.
Among the most amazing stories are those of stroke victims who have recovered almost entirely from their neurological damage and returned to an active life. Others are about new technologies for providing sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and greater autonomy to the movement impaired. Some of the findings about the aging brain are especially interesting and hopeful. In fact I was so impressed with some of it, that I gave the book to a friend who also worked in neurology in "the old days" and who is now dealing with the issues of living with her mother whose memory is gradually failing and whose everyday life is getting to be more and more difficult and complicated.
A superb book.
For people who have suffered any kind of brain trauma this book is especially helpful and hopeful. Neuroplasticity is how we remap our brains after an injury. Family members of a brain injury survivor will gain a lot of understanding about how to support and encourage their loved one.
Lastly, this book is very well written. Doidge is a great storyteller! He starts out each chapter with a story about someone and utilizes that as a vehicle to explain the science, research, and neuroplasticity. The book is also well read. (With the exception that the narrator mispronounces amygdala a few times!) I own both a print and audiobook version.