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The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science [Paperback]

Norman Doidge M.D.
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 18 2007 James H. Silberman Books
What is neuroplasticity? Is it possible to change your brain? Norman Doidge’s inspiring guide to the new brain science explains all of this and more
An astonishing new science called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable, and proving that it is, in fact, possible to change your brain. Psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, M.D., traveled the country to meet both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity, its healing powers, and the people whose lives they’ve transformed—people whose mental limitations, brain damage or brain trauma were seen as unalterable. We see a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, blind people who learn to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, stroke patients learning to speak, children with cerebral palsy learning to move with more grace, depression and anxiety disorders successfully treated, and lifelong character traits changed. Using these marvelous stories to probe mysteries of the body, emotion, love, sex, culture, and education, Dr. Doidge has written an immensely moving, inspiring book that will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.

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The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science + Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life + The Mind And The Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force
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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.


“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.”
-Publisher’s Weekly

“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”
-Washington Post 
“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.”
-Panorama Italy

“The Brain That Changes 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.”
-Melbourne Age

“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.”
-Hobart Mercury

“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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
This is the most interesting book I've read about brain science . . . and the most relevant. I highly recommend you read it!

If you haven't been following brain science, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Recent experiments have overturned a long-held tenant of brain science: That specific mental and bodily functions can only be directed from one location in the brain. Destroy that section and physicians have told you that you were out of luck. This conclusion doomed many who had suffered strokes and other brain injuries to having no hope of improvement.

The good news, as described in this easy-to-understand popular treatment, is that the brain can actually relocate functions to new areas if the primary site is destroyed. As a result, stroke victims can gain control over movements by therapy designed to disable their abler body areas . . . forcing the brain to establish new circuits to control the areas with little or no control; the blind can learn to "see" using sensor inputs from other areas of their bodies; those without balance can relearn balance through using other feedback mechanisms; and those with "phantom" pain tied to missing limbs can trigger elimination of that sensation. The only continuing limitation seems to be that some areas of the brain are only open to maximum flexibility during short periods of life. But promising research suggests that biochemical tools may be able to reopen those pathways to progress.

Chances are that your physician won't know about all of these advanced therapies. If you or someone you know has neurological disorders, you should read this book to see where to send them for help.

Be sure to check out the sections on how psychoanalysis can be used to rewire the brain to change sensations, reactions, and behavior, and the appendices on cultural impacts on the brain and the potential for perfectibility.
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96 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Review That Wrote Itself March 30 2007
A revolution is now sweeping through the field of brain science, and this book chronicles the stories of the men and women who have ushered in a new age. The brain is no longer viewed as a machine that is hard-wired early in life, unable to adapt and destined to "wear out" with age. Instead, we learn that scientists are beginning to unlock the secrets of the powerful, lifelong, adaptability - or "plasticity" - of the brain. The implications are enormous for treating neurological conditions, for addressing the aging process and for dramatic improvements in human performance. Author Norman Doidge is a psychiatrist on the Columbia faculty and he 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 these developments. Each story is interwoven with the latest in brain science, told in a manner that is both simple and compelling. 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.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Resurrection of Sigmund Freud May 9 2008
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
The history of Sigmund Freud's approach to the mechanisms of the mind has exhibited some tumultuous changes over the past century. Norman Doidge reminds us that Freud developed a thesis about the mind's plasticity over time. Freud's psychotherapy - irrespective of some questionable methods - was designed to allow the mind to search within itself and change outward behaviour by identifying memories hidden or repressed. However, after Freud, researchers using diagnoses of stroke or brain-injury victims, "mapped" areas in the brain for function. The first of these was the speech-producing region now named Broca's Area, after Paul Broca, its discoverer in the mid-19th century. Brain modularity, or "localization" as Doidge deems it, became the norm in brain research for decades following Broca. In this fine account of the history or recent brain studies, Doidge addresses a new concept being used to both treat and train - brain "plasticity".

Rewiring of the brain isn't a new concept. Among the more famous examples of how the brain reacts to challenges from the rest of the body is the concept known as "phantom limbs". Patients suffering amputations have complained of itchiness or pain seeming to emanate from the lost limb. V.S. Ramachandran and his colleagues have described this phenomenon in detail. "Rama" is but one of the researchers Doidge parades in a receiving line of innovative cognitive specialists. One of his more noteworthy is Michael Merzenich, who Doidge declares is the "world's leading researcher in brain plasticity". Merzenich followed the work of Wilder Penfield at McGill University in Montreal. Penfield used electrical probes to map the regions of the brain to identify which areas produced specific reactions. Penfield's work reinforced the consensus regarding "localization".
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and insightful read May 24 2007
Dr. Doidge's book provides you with an excellent insight into the world of neuroplasticity, or the world of the malleable brain. Although it has many great examples illustrating the "plasticity" of the brain, the reader should have some backround knowledge of the nervous system to fully comprehend the concepts, although it is explained to some extent in the book. An excellent read, one that i would encourage all to read
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bargain of the year Feb. 6 2009
Finally! Someone has written an owners manual for the brain. Once you read this, you begin to understand why we do the things we do, and how to solve behavioral and physical problems. Excellent!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good case scenarios/examples
Exceptional book, good case scenarios/examples.
Published 1 month ago by V. Brewster
5.0 out of 5 stars Have recommended it to quite a few friends
I find so much of this book interesting. Have recommended it to quite a few friends.
Published 1 month ago by earth4me
4.0 out of 5 stars read it to understand more of others but especially yourself
A great read to adjust your behaviours and actions to generate a longer term positive result in your life and those you come in contact with
Published 1 month ago by Jim
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
One of the best book I've read in the last years. It mix science and miracles together in a simple enough way for beginner to understand; But it still use technical language to be... Read more
Published 2 months ago by yop
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect condition
Someone recommended that I take a look at this book and I ended up being so interested in it I looked into buying one. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Rebecca
3.0 out of 5 stars Hoped for More
My wife read it; but it was not everything she had hoped. It did give some incites to the retraining of the brain.
Published 6 months ago by Don Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly interesting and compassionate book
Excellent read! Especially well written. I had the pleasure of attending a lecture at MacMaster University shortly after I purchased the book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Susan RMT student.
5.0 out of 5 stars positive
This is a book which is written in plain language, it is very informative for people who are caregivers or are simply interested in how the brain works. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Janette Emsley
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly fantastic
a friend with a dangerous an incurable brain tumour credits following this book with being abke to cope an dunderstand and help heal herself to a point, just fascinating... Read more
Published 7 months ago by judyevelyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Book was in great shape...and is a great read!
Book arrived on time, was in great shape and is one of the best reads for the curious and brain obsessed individual! Read more
Published 8 months ago by Brooke
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