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The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force Paperback – October 14, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Schwartz (A Return to Innocence), a UCLA psychiatrist and expert on treating patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), teams up with Begley, a Wall Street Journal science columnist, to explore the mind/brain dichotomy and to discuss the science behind new treatments being developed for a host of brain dysfunctions. Building on the work presented in Schwartz's first book, Brain Lock, the authors begin by demonstrating that OCD patients are capable of rechanneling compulsive urges into more socially acceptable activities and that, by doing so, they actually alter their brains' neuronal circuitry. By presenting a wide array of animal and human experiments, Schwartz and Begley show that similar neuroplasticity is possible in stroke victims, often leading to a return of function previously thought impossible. The medical results and treatments they summarize are exciting and deserve widespread attention. In a chapter entitled "Free Will and Free Won't," the authors turn to the philosophical, examining the implications neuroplasticity might have on the differences between mind and brain; they also discourse on the existence of free will. Unfortunately, their integration of quantum mechanics and Buddhism into a search for a mechanism to explain the patterns scientists have been discovering is too superficial to fully engage readers. Nonetheless, a great deal in this book is sure to motivate discussion and more research.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Schwartz's undergraduate major was philosophy, and that interest as well as Buddhism has broadened his outlook and makes this book potentially attractive to more readers than those habitually interested in "brain science." Psychiatrist Schwartz pioneered the use of positron-emission tomography in studying obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The behaviorists' therapeutic use of the often-harsh exposure and prevention method with OCD struck Schwartz as brutal and unproductive. Searching for a new approach, he gradually developed the four-step method that he and science writer Begley thoroughly describe here. Employing the Buddhist idea of willful mindfulness, Schwartz and his colleagues enjoyed considerable research and clinical success. A long, informal collaboration with physicist Henry Stapp enabled Schwartz to overcome the problem of free will and moral action, and one of his major achievements was proving the neuroplasticity of the adult brain, thanks to which the formation of new transmission routes coincides with that of new neurons. Schwartz and Begley bring to life the thinking and work of many original investigators in a book that thoughtful readers will enjoy. William Beatty
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Tracing the author’s path on how how he came to his conclusions over the years is interesting in its own right.
1. He was well aware of William James (1900) who wrote on the “mind and the brain” and contended that there was more to the mind than a physical entity. James talked about “volition" (free will), but could not make a scientific case for proving it.
2. Author knew that a child forms most all brain function potential by the age of two. He also knew that when young children lost half of their brain to surgery, they were NOT severely handicapped.
3. As a neuropsychologist, the author worked with many patients who were suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and others who had lost part of their brain function due to stoke or other causes. Instead of giving patients drugs to affect
certain parts of the physical brain, which was common practice, he tried self-mind-healing remedies where the patient took back control by “focus”, “intention” and “attention”.
Author quote: “The discovery that neuroplasticity can be induced in people who have suffered a stroke demonstrated, more than any other finding, the clinical power of a brain that can rewire itself."
4. After years of working with OCD patients, the author used a disciplined format of, “Relabel, Reattribute, Refocus, Revalue”, resulting in an independent scientific application that could be applied to validate the results. (All the while he was bucking the materialist psychologists who wanted no part of his “mysterious solution”.) Author’s process was at last confirmed scientifically by controlled studies.
Author quote: “Since I was arguing that the mind can change the brain, persuading the scientific community that I was right required that scientists accept an evan more basic fact that the adult brain can change at all.”
5. At this point the author had won the argument for “duality”; that the brain and the mind are connected but that they are completely separate entities. (Darwinists and materialists deny duality since brain to them equals mind.)
He also had vindicated William James contention that there was a real concept of volition or free will.
6. The author then goes on to investigate if there is any basis in science for this “mind over matter mystery” to come about, i.e., how does the rewiring take place? He was open to the option that it might be a mystery or enigma of physics, so he investigated quantum physics where physicist Niels Bohr had already shown that consciousness between mind and quantum particles changes the state of the particles.
Niels Bohr quote: "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.” (Einstein understood what Bohr meant but never accepted it.) With the triumph of the quantum theory, physics stopped being about nature itself and instead became about our knowledge of nature (human observations): “No phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.” Without knowing the details of quantum theory, It should be obvious that the mind and matter are in some way mysteriously entangled.
The final step was to apply the quantum effects to what is going on in the brain of an observer, and what scientists know as the Quantum Zeno Effect. The neurons involve electrical impulses and ions so we have the quantum ingredients needed if changes can be effectual. Simply put, the Zeno Effect says that when an observation is made (intention/attention of the mind), it holds onto the neural connection that has been created, and with continued, focused observations over time holds that neural connection. So the brain gets physically changed/rewired by focused use of the mind!
So the author finally satisfied his puzzlement on how the OCD patients and those with other brain damage could by "force of mind" produce healing. The author makes a comment "that although I believed in the concept in a spiritual sense, I wasn’t yet thinking about whether such a mental force might have a physical reality.”
The Mind and The Brain covered many interesting and important subjects for those who consider themselves thinkers of humanity.
I had Ph.D in solid State Physics and had been thinking along a similar line of thoughts about the philosophical implication of Quantum physics for 30 years. I think the book has the breath and the depth to be considered a great book, although the conclusion of attention being the mental force, in my opinion, is a bit premature.
From other reviews on, I found the responses were largely based on the background of the reviewers. As a physicist with Asian culture background, working in US for 30 years, I can appreciate many aspects of the reviews. I made a table below showing what I would think how the readers would consider the subjects when reading this book. (This is simply my guess of others' views and could be very inaccurate.)
4R for OCD........revolutionary.........new............acceptable......acceptable
Brain lock .......common sense.........new............new...............new
Brain plasticity..revolutionary..........new............new..............common belief
Free will...........debatable.............debatable......debatable.......common belief
If you are a physicist with western culture background, you might find this book very informative in the brain structure but skeptical about the quantum theorem portion. But, if you have an Asian culture background, you might find the proof of mental force is pointless because it was taken for granted for thousands of years.
From this table, this book is a very informative book to nearly everybody and I highly recommend it. I also agree with many reviewers that some repetitions and the over-mentioning of OCD therapy often turn off the readers.
(2) A respectable attempt:
Although very often I thought Dr. Schwartz was repeating the obvious, such as 4R. I think many people perform this exercise whenever you feel itchy of your throat on stage or an urge of your bladder in a long bus ride. But, I realize he was trying to provide scientific evidence to a common practice. Even we have accustomed to something, the details of scientific evidence is the foundation of enhancement of understanding. Therefore, to say the practice was commonly used elsewhere did not diminishing the importance of scientific explanation of how it works. Further, the OCD PET scan data was used as an evidence of Brain plasticity.
Similarly, many therapies used for stroke recovery were practiced widely. Those people did not care about theory. They just want to recover their paralyses. But, providing scientific understanding of why it was possible is still an important work.
It is respectful that Dr. Shwartz conducted these works in the science community which had long established the belief that human brain loses its plasticity after childhood.
(3) A not-successful-yet attempt:
The motive of Dr. Schwartz's work, initially on OCD patients, was extended to seek for finding the link between the mind and the brain, via scientific method and a hope for the existence of free will.
But, the problem is Dr. Schwartz does not understand Buddhism enough or quantum physics enough. He relied on Dr. Henry Stapp of UCB to form the foundation of quantum interpretation of mind. I read the same arguments in "Quantum Brain" written by Jeffrey Satinover:
--- Classical physics lead to determinism
--- Determinism leads to materialism
--- Materialism leads to non-existence of free will
The triumph of quantum physics broke this chain. But, to say it provides the ultimate answers is an overstatement.
What Dr. Stapp provided was just a hypothesis or a possibility. While personally, I, who had a Ph. D in Solid State Physics, think it is going a wrong direction, I have to applaud Dr. Stapp for trying. Maybe it will lead to new hypotheses to be verified or discarded. And, this is of the spirit of scientific method.
Finally, the claim the existence of a mental force is not new or supported by Dr. Schwartz's work.
The link between mind and brain remains un-discovered.