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

by Norman Doidge, M.D.

      If you’ve seen an episode of Star Trek TOS entitled "Spock’s Brain," you may believe as I did that speech, movement, and other body functions are controlled by very specific areas of the brain. For decades now, neuroscientists have adamantly proclaimed the truth of this notion and insisted that damage to a particular area of the brain results in permanent damage to the corresponding function.

Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself presents an impressive and riveting series of case studies that turn the old wisdom on its head. Decades of research in the field "...showed that children are not always stuck with the mental abilities they are born with:.. that if brain cells die, they can at times be replaced; that many ‘circuits’ and even basic reflexes that we think are hardwired are not." The discovery that the brain is flexible and capable of remarkable feats of self-healing and modification at any age is both fascinating and exciting. This ability is referred to as neuroplasticity, and it holds great promise for thousands of people with disabilities previously thought to be irreversible.

Doidge references the work of many scientists, physicians, psychiatrists, and even untrained individuals who stumbled upon methods for rebuilding brain and body to function again after strokes and other debilitating experiences. All of this has led to the development of brain-enhancing programs such as Posit Science, which helps to slow age-related cognitive decline, and Fast ForWord, a computer program designed to help children with learning disabilities that has also proven to be an excellent tool for autistic children.

The Brain That Changes Itself provides example after example of people who have changed their brains and overcome catastrophic spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Doidge also relates pertinent information about the history of brain science and key players in the field. His explicit description of research performed on animals will be greatly disturbing to some readers (he refers to PETA’s attempts to shut down one such research project as "witch hunts.") Overall, though, The Brain That Changes Itself is a riveting read, with valuable information that any of us can apply to our own lives.

The Book

December 2007
Trade Paperback
Nonfiction / Science / Medicine / Neuroscience
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The Reviewer

Deborah Adams
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Deborah Adams is the Flair and Macavity Award winning author of the Jesus Creek Mystery Series: All The Great Pretenders, All The Crazy Winters, All The Dark Disguises, All The Hungry Mothers, All The Deadly Beloved, All The Blood Relations, and All The Dirty Cowards. She was also an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel.
© 2008