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The Plastic Mind Paperback – 26 Feb 2009


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The Plastic Mind + 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
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (26 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845296745
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845296742
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

There are two great things about this book. One is that it shows us how nothing about our brains is set in stone. The other is that it is written by Sharon Begley, one of the best science writers around. This is a terrific book. (Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers)

It is very seldom that a science in its infancy is so skilfully unpacked that it reads like a detective novel.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses

(Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses)

Brilliant (Health Writer)

Book Description

Is it really possible to change the structure and function of the brain, and in so doing alter how we think and feel? The answer is a resounding yes.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. Prygodzicz on 12 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have almost finished reading this book. The author's writing style is very good, clear and readable. She has carried out a lot of research in the relevant literature and via interviews with neuroscientists and buddhist meditators, and she organises and explains the subject matter very well. The book describes how the brain can be plastic and change even in adults, and how areas of the brain have been found to be able to acquire new functions.
I am interested in improving the performance of my mind and in staving off problems such as dementia. The book does emphasise that research appears to show the beneficial effects of meditation on the brain, and on one's level of happiness.
I found the book useful in that it showed me the value of constantly seeking new experiences and acquiring new skills, and in considering the benefits of meditation.
Overall, this is a very good and interesting book, which I rate very highly.
I also recommend John Ratey's book 'Spark', which describes how vigorous exercise causes the birth of new brain cells, can defeat depression and dementia, and help people control their lives better.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By P. Hodson on 25 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Anybody who is interesting in how the brain/mind works, how people perceive and interact with the world and how the norms of neuroscience has been over-turned in the last 10/20 years should read this book. Even if you are not religious or spiritual in anyway (don't be put off by the Buddhist aspects to this book) the science is utterly fascinating. People who want to make their world a better place: "... I have a choice in how I react, that who I am depends on the choices I make, and that who I am is therefore my responsibility..." - if this is ringing any bells for you, should read this book. Anybody who is interested in how words and thoughts actually manifest the world around you because the labels you use to describe your world alter your perception of it, should read this book. It describes how thoughts (good or bad) can manifest in habits, which can be changed, it illustrates that there is the potential for brain damage caused by illness (strokes) to be alleviated, or how some aspects of dyslexia can be reduced. And presents them in easy to understand chunks. The intro could put some people off, and the chapter on how adolescent minds/brains work is a bit heavy, but it is well worth persevering. And it shows how some 'established' truths of how we as humans function, is in fact completely wrong... I can't recommend it highly enough.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. H. A. Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Plastic Mind: New science reveals our extraordinary potential to transform ourselves, by Sharon Begley, Ballantine, New York, 2007; Constable, London, 2009, 368 ff.

How mind can inform and transform the body
By Howard Jones

Sharon Begley is the science columnist at Newsweek magazine. She is also the co-author with Jeffrey Schwartz of The Mind and The Brain that explores a similar theme to that in this book. The book grew out of a seminar of leading neuroscientists meeting in Dharamsala, India, at the home of the present Dalai Lama, who wrote the Foreword to the book.

The main theme of the book, as is obvious from the title, is that the functions of the human brain and mind are not totally prescribed genetically at birth. This should have been apparent centuries ago as it was obvious that we all learn innumerable things as we grow older. So the brain could not possibly be a wholly static organ. Eastern meditative practices in particular have long been known to alter perceptions in the physical body - resistance to heat and cold, ability to go without food or sleep, etc. This book describes the extent of this neuroplasticity and how it can be developed.

After the introductory chapter we are regaled with the disturbing details of the experiments performed on the so-called Silver Spring monkeys - experiments that triggered the animal rights movement. Moving on, the next two chapters deal with the presentations from two of the five distinguished neuroscientists at the gathering: Fred Gage and Helen Neville. After two chapters dealing with the neuroplasticity theme and the contributions made by other scientists, we have three more chapters devoted each in turn to the three remaining guest speakers: Michael Meaney, Phillip Shaver and Richard Davidson.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lotus Lady on 7 Jun. 2013
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It was Aristotle who said: "We are what we repeatedly do". Neuroscience and precisely Neuroplasticity shows us just that. And this book is a good introduction on both.

First of all I would like to give it five starts for spreading science that can be used to enhance the 'human experience' (this is, just living healthy and happily, without too much pointless suffering).

I'm an strong atheist in total love with Neuroscience and Humanism and I find this book highly informative and educational: knowing how your brain works and interacts with your life experiences is knowing yourself, and what is best, knowing how to improve yourself. The discoveries in such a young science branch as is Neuroscience are full of excitement and hope for the future of humanity, and I certainly can't wait to see where does it take us. This book already gives some hints about the possibilities that are worth knowing.

However, the (most time excellent) writing gets repetitive at times, as if Begley couldn't develop the argument in an elegant, eloquent way to its end. She keeps repeating "the study would show otherwise - the study was showing otherwise - the study was still showing otherwise - the study showed otherwise", when you already know the outcome in the first to pages. This is usually necessary in scientific texts (explaining in detail about every phase of a study), but Begley abuses it unnecessarily, keeping the 'formula' without adding relevant information. So you end up reading the same idea again and again at some points. When it came to the study about mother behaviour in rats, I admit I had to quit the 3 last pages: it was too much, and unnecessary even from a scientific text.
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