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

Norman Doidge
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Aug 2008

Meet the ninety year old doctor, who, with the aid of a few simple exercises, is still practising medicine. His is just one of the incredible stories brain expert Norman Doidge tells as he reveals our brain's remarkable ability to repair itself through the power of positive thought.

In The Brain That Changes Itself Doidge introduces us to the fascinating stories at the cutting edge of the brain science and the emerging discipline of 'neuroplasticity' . We meet the stroke victim who unable to feed or dress himself learned to move and talk again, the woman with a rare brain condition that left her feeling as though she was perpetually falling but who through a series of exercises rewired her brain to overcome this and the maverick scientists over turning centuries of assumptions about the brain and it's capacity for renewal. Doidge shows how their incredible work is helping the blind to see, the deaf to hear and causing Nobel laureates to rethink our model of the brain.

This remarkable book will leave you with a sense of wonder at the capabilities of the human brain and the power to change which lies within all of us.

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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 Plastic Mind
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014103887X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141038872
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Norman Doidge's brilliant, The Brain That Changes Itself ... makes a convincing case for our brains being far more plastic and malleable than previously supposed.' -- Andrew Smith, Sunday Times

Doidge has identified a tidal shift in basic science and a potential one in medicine. -- Penny Wark, The Times

Norman Doidge has written a fascinating, highly readable account of the new brain science -- Literary Review

You really should read this book. ... This remarkable work will lead most of us to see ourselves in a new light, not least in terms of our own possibilities. Five Stars. -- Andrew Smith, Mail on Sunday


Doidge has identified a tidal shift in basic science and a potential one in medicine.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
209 of 211 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Approach with caution 30 Jan 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting and readable book, and it clearly has created a lot of interest in the subject. It covers a range of topics relating to neural plasticity, which is not quite such a new topic as the author would have us believe. The strength of the book is the writing style and how accessible it is.

However, I would urge readers to approach this book with a degree of caution, or dare I say take it with a pinch of salt. What the author fails to do is apply any real level of critical appraisal to the material he covers. Some of the material covered has a substantial evidence base, some of it has a shaky evidence base, some has no evidence base whatsoever and is pure conjecture. If I take the example of constraint-induced therapy, originating from a psychologist called Taub, which I went away and read up on quite extensively following the claims made in this book. This is a treament for hemiplegia following stroke, whereby the good arm is constrained for several hours each day, thus forcing the person to use their bad arm. The logic behind this is that this will prevent learned non-use and also facilitate some cortical remapping, so that that control of that arm is taken over by in-tact brain areas. When you look at the evidence, a lot of which is pretty good quality research, this is not anything like the panacea that Doidge presents it to be. There are only a proportion of patients this works for, it is still unclear what the best protocol for its use is, and there is a lack of evidence for it producing lasting, long-term gains. A recent Cochrane review concluded that there was not enough evidence to say clearly whether it was effective or not, so the jury is still out.

Some of the education-related material was based on one particular programme.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Dave C
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very readable introduction to brain plasticity. The book is full of examples about how the brain adapts to damage and changing circumstances and requirements of the body. Mr Doidge lambasts the long held view of brain "localization" (specialised areas for different functions, e.g. Broca's area), through case studies of autism and stroke treatments amongst others.

Unfortunately the book lacks any critical analysis of its subjects. All Dr Doidge's subjects are heroes who battled for years against mainstream science. One example is the Fast ForWord learning program - a quick Google shows that the program is maybe not as successful as the author claims (or has been commercialised into areas for which is less suitable).

There is a chapter on Psychoanalysis using one of Dr Doidge's former patients as a case study, which didn't seem to fit the theme of the book (and reminded me of Frasier!)

Dr Doidge has no moral doubt about the use of animals (even cute ones) for experiments. As a lay reader, I found the casual description of brain surgery and permanent disability inflicted on monkeys a little shocking. The experiments have value, but the monkey's rights shouldn't be dismissed quite so completely.

Still, a very interesting book.
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136 of 143 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting - but flawed. 26 Dec 2008
Norman Doidge has written an eminently readable and interesting book about advances in the understanding of brain function, perception, learning, and response to injury. He also illustrates how these advances are informing the development of more effective treatments and interventions for conditions as diverse as strokes and addiction.

However, the book is somewhat spoiled by the over-congratulatory tenor of the prose, and the over-enthusiastic application of these ideas to every aspect of human behaviour. It is ironic that he spends so much time lambasting the 'localizationalists' (bizarrely portrayed as a kind of establishment mafia hell-bent on stifling research) for over-extending their ideas whilst he undertakes similar mental gymnastics in his attempts to demonstrate that every condition - from autism to pornography addiction - can be wholly explained by brain plasticity.

And this is where the book ultimately falls down as a science book. In many cases he asserts 'facts' to support his hypotheses which are simply wrong - facts which the rather poorly referenced and constructed end-notes are silent on. The chapter on sexuality is particularly cringeworthy, as he trots out a number of bizarre assertions, social commentary and outdated Freudian concepts to build his arguments, apparently unaware of the rich depth and detail of research in this area which in some cases contradicts his hypotheses.

Is this an interesting book worth reading? Yes. But that comes with a warning that it contains the over-generalisations and unwarranted assumptions that, so often, are found in sloppy science - both 'popular' and academic.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect 8 Jan 2009
By Peter Biddlecombe TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Just after reading a book on similar topics which I found disappointing (Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain), this was far better. Each chapter tackles a manageable issue, and most of them focus on a single individual who has overcome a brain-related problem, stiking a good balance between human interest and explanation of the underlying science. I was a bit surprised to see not a single picture in the whole book, but perhaps the simple truth (demonstrated quite dramatically in the other book!) is that printable pictures or diagrams of brains don't tell us that much.

A couple of minor gripes: there's a bit too much description of experiments as "brilliant" rather than saying why they're brilliant. And there's an irritating bit of design: paragraphs start in the sanserif font used for headings, and then lurch to a serif font after about five words. Not an elegant idea.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 16 days ago by Chrissie M
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Lots of lessons to be learned from others' experiences. A fascinating read.
Published 1 month ago by Beezle 47
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent study material
Published 1 month ago by Fiona Armitage
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting this is a nobrainer decision!
Brain plasticity... think you can't change.. Think again. Full of interesting research and stories of the brain healing itself well into adult and old age.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Lynda Carew
5.0 out of 5 stars This has been so very helpful to me since my ...
This has been so very helpful to me since my husband had a stroke. It has changed the way I work with him and it has totally opened up my mind into what is possible for recovery. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jayne Gulliver
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book!
An extremely well written and accessible book giving the facts and up to date science of neuroplasticity and demonstrating practical, and sometimes seemingly miraculous effects of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by B Davey
5.0 out of 5 stars good argument
love this challenges all my beliefs well written and makes me think I need to change my beliefs I think it was a very good buy
Published 4 months ago by william macvean
5.0 out of 5 stars accessible and awe inspiring book.
This book makes neuroscience easy to understand. Its written well and most of all demonstrates the capacity for the brain to adapt, and the amazing scientists who are taking this... Read more
Published 4 months ago by babymonkey
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Of course I've no idea if it's all or broadly scientifically credible, but no reason not to think so. Read more
Published 5 months ago by DK
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book!!
Provides rich information in the process of how the brain rewires and changes itself, really eye-opening and educational for people who are looking into changing their thought... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nadia Khan
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