The Brain That Changes Itself


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An astonishing new scientific discovery called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the adult human brain is fixed and unchanging. It is, instead, able to change its own structure and function, even into old age.

About the Author

Norman Doidge, MD, is the author of the best-selling book, The Brain That Changes Itself: personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science, which has sold over one million copies worldwide. Dr Doidge is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, researcher, author, essayist and poet. He is on the Research Faculty at Columbia University's Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, in New York, and the University of Toronto's Department of Psychiatry. He is a native of Toronto. Visit him at


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 2006 Reed Business Information.

The newest buzzword in brain science seems to be neuroplasticity-the idea that the adult brain is capable of positive change. For decades, scientists and doctors thought little could be done for victims of strokes and accidents because brain cells in adults were locked into specific functions and didn't change or grow. Doidge (psychoanalysis, Columbia Univ. Psychoanalytic Ctr.) tells the story of the scientists whose work has proven that neuroplasticity is, in fact, possible, with examples of patients suffering from strokes, paralysis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, blindness, learning disabilities, and other neurological and psychiatric problems who have been helped. Sharon Begley covers the same ground in her upcoming Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential To Transform Ourselves, but Begley actually demonstrates how the topic is important to the average person. With stories of those whose lives have been saved or improved through training based on neuroplastic theories, Doidge's book is much more engaging for lay readers. Recommended for most libraries.-Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

'In the intrepid tradition of Oliver Sacks, Norman Doidge embarks on a fantastic voyage through the labyrinth of the human brain.';- Simon Hughes, AFR Magazine;;An 'essential primer for anyone who wants to better understand their own brains and the considerable advances in neuroscience of the past two decades.';- Gordon Farrer, Age;;'Lucid and absolutely fascinating ... engaging, educational and riveting. It satisfies, in equal measure, the mind and the heart. Doidge is able to explain current research in neuroscience with clarity and thoroughness. He presents the ordeals of the patients about whom he writes - people born with parts of their brains missing, people with learning disabilities, people recovering from strokes - with grace and vividness. In the best medical narratives - and the works of Doidge ... join that fraternity- the narrow bridge between body and soul is traversed with courage and eloquence.';- Chicago Tribune;;'It takes a rare talent to explain science to the rest of us. Oliver Sacks is a master at this ... And now there is Norman Doidge ... To benefit from a concept, one must first grasp it, and that is what makes The Brain That Changes Itself such a terrific book. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to read it - just a person with a curious mind. Doidge is the best possible guide. He has a fluent and unassuming style, and is able to explain difficult concepts without talking down to his readers ... Doidge [is] a top-notch writer ... Buy this book. Your brain will thank you.';- Globe & Mail;;'a remarkable book ... a highly readable exploration of a branch of science that has the potential to change all our lives.';- Hobart Mercury;;'Fascinating synopsis of the revolution in neuroscience shows that the age-old distinction between the brain and the mind is crumbling fast as the power of positive thinking finally gains scientific credibility.';- National Post (holiday book guide);;'Doidge provides a history of the research in this growing field, highlighting scientists at the edge of groundbreaking discoveries and telling fascinating stories of people who have benefited ... An engaging read for anyone interested in the science behind how our surprisingly moldable brains are changed by our experiences.';- Psychology Today;;'A woman who perpetually feels like she's falling, a man addicted to hard-core pornography, an amputee with excruciating pain in his phantom elbow; all cured thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to rewire itself. Doidge provides a history of the research in this growing field, highlighting scientists at the edge of groundbreaking discoveries and telling fascinating stories of people who have benefited. One researcher restores a woman's sense of balance by placing electrodes on her tongue to create a novel neural pathway; a man undergoes physical therapy that reorganizes his brain and allows him to return to work after suffering an incapacitating stroke. Doidge even calls psychoanalysis 'neuroplastic therapy - understanding a painful memory, for example, involves disconnecting and reconnecting neuronal groups.';- Psychology Today;;'With detailed case studies reminiscent of Oliver Sacks, combined with extensive interviews with lead researchers, Doidge ... slowly turns everything we thought we knew about the brain upside down ... Doidge writes interestingly and engagingly about some of the least understood marvels of the brain.';- Publishers Weekly;;'Perfect for fans of Oliver Sacks';- Quill & Quire;;'This is a fascinating book which alters the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.';- Suzy Wilson, South East Advertiser;;'a fascinating glimpse into a new field ... The Brain That Changes Itself could signal an important medical shift we're in the midst of right now.';- Drew Turney, Sun Herald;;'This book is like discovering that the earth isn't flat.';- Gretel Killeen, Sun Herald, 'The Books That Changed Me';;'The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge shows us that at last neuroscience has caught up with what mystics and meditation have taught for centuries - the brain is infinitely changeable. Forget mechanics: the brain is not a machine, nor is it a computer made of meat. This book is a wonderful and engaging way of re-imagining what kind of creatures we are.';- Jeanette Winterson, The Guardian, Best Books of 2008;;'In bookstores, the science aisle generally lies well away from the self-help section, with hard reality on one set of shelves and wishful thinking on the other. But Norman Doidge's fascinating synopsis of the current revolution in neuroscience straddles this gap: the age-old distinction between the brain and the mind is crumbling fast as 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.';- Abigail Zuger, M.D., The New York Times, Science Times;;'... anyone who has read Norman Doidge's brilliant The Brain That Changes Itself, in which the author makes a convincing case for our brains being far more 'plastic' and malleable than previously supposed, will suspect that our predispositions can be changed through experience';- Andrew Smith, The Sunday Times (UK);; 'A book that everybody should read. When your brain is damaged, another part of the brain rewires itself and takes over the same function, making it possible for you to resume normalcy in your life. It is nothing short of miraculous.';- Yoko Ono, The Week;;'The Brain That Changes Itself is a valuable compilation of work that seeks to prove the unsung adaptability of our most mysterious organ. Readers will want to read entire sections aloud and pass the book on to someone who can benefit from it.';- Washington Post;;Doidge 'has a knack for translating scientific jargon into plain English ... This is an enjoyable read, an impressive translation of neuroscience for a lay audience. It will interest anyone who wants to know more about how the brain works.';- Winnipeg Free Press;;'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 neuro-rehabilitation. 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 Sacks

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