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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but uncritical summary of brain plasticity
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...
Published on 17 May 2011 by Dave C

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209 of 211 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Approach with caution
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...
Published on 30 Jan 2010 by Tescodirect


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209 of 211 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Approach with caution, 30 Jan 2010
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
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. When looking at the references, all the evidence seemed to come from one source, and was not published in peer-reviewed journals (i.e. had not been scrutinised by the scientific community). About the highest level of publication appeared to be a poster presented at a conference.

As another reviewer mentioned, the chapter on sexuality seemed to be pure conjecture.

Do I regret reading it? No, it entertained me, and annoyed me in equal measure, but consequently prompted me to do further reading. So I have to say I benefitted from reading it, and would probably recommend it to others. But please approach it with a critical mind.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but uncritical summary of brain plasticity, 17 May 2011
By 
Dave C (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
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 "peterbiddlecombe" (Bucks, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and easy to understand, 21 Nov 2008
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C. Stewart "The Cat's Whiskers" (Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
This book, along with Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything", is how science books for ordinary people should be written. Clear and concise without being condescending but not so dry the Sahara is a water-sports marina in comparison.
Norman Doidge grips the reader's interest as he takes us back to the diastrous ideaology - soon medical orthodoxy - of the brain as a rigid inflexible computer and how pioneering scientists - often persecuted and ridiculed for ignoring the "accepted majority" - showed that the human brain is a marvellous creation superior to pretty much anything on the planet.
Forget all those claims and headline grabbers about "Artificial intelligence" being here in a decade and the Terminator movies becoming reality by 2050, Norman Doidge exposes just how great the human brain is, and just how hopelessly inadequate and vainglorious are our attempts to replicate and reproduce it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Brain That Changes Itself, 20 April 2009
By 
Mrs. Deborah A. Troop (Dublin Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
This book is full of interesting information about the human brain.It is very inspiring to read the incredible stories about people who's brains have adapted to their various problems, like being born with half a brain! This book is a good resource for readers who want help with various difficulties, like dyslexia etc. Being over 70 myself, I have found the book exciting and have subscribed to Sharp Brains, which claims to stimulate the aging brain through different exercises. I think it's working!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought, 6 Feb 2009
By 
David Crean (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
Norman Doidge's "The Brain that Changes Itself" is a very readable and inspiring collection of stories. It is high time that the research and findings (not to mention empirical evidence) on the plasticity of the brain re-balances the accepted orthodoxy of the last century that dictated the brain was a fixed organ that laid down immutable neuronal networks early in life with no, or little, hope of any change. Doidge's book brings to light the work of a number of physicians, scientists and clinicians who are helping people with previously considered intractable conditions to live healthy and fulfilling lives. The brain really is a living organism that is continually adapting, growing and changing. "The Brain that Changes Itself" is full of wonderful personal stories underpinned by solid scientific evidence presented clearly and without fanfare.

There may be a few inaccuracies within these pages but this would be to quibble. On the whole I found Norman Doidge's book well-researched and am grateful for this book. I recommend this book and hope it gains wide readership.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Brain that changes itself, 28 Jun 2009
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
Bought this as present for a friend. Got so engrossed reading it that I had to buy further copies for more than the one friend! It is an excellent read in straight forward English, although about quite a specialised scientific subject - the latest developments in neuroscience. What particularly impressed me is the combination of the clearly outlined modern theoretical framework of the plasticity of the brain, in contrast to earlier views that specific parts of the brain had specific functions. Furthermore, theory is combined with highly illuminating case studies of a great variety of patients, who have benefited through the recognition of new theory because this has opened up new methods for self improvement after illness or accident, and / or dramatic changes as a result of professional help. We, even the elderly (of whom I am one), can do so much to help ourselves. Keep on learning new things. The message about the brain is: "Use it or Lose it!" Rene Branton-Saran
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and inspiring, 26 Jan 2010
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This review is from: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Paperback)
This is one of the first books I read on neuroscience and I strongly recommend it. It is full of fascinating and inspiring cases and excellent information about how we can use our mind to shape our brain, and improve performance and satisfaction. It's not a heavy read at all, but you feel you are getting access to 'proper science'. Great resource for coaches.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brains Flexibly Reconnect to Allow Optimal Functioning: New Treatments Abound!, 3 July 2007
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Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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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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