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Publisher's Summary

The discovery that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains - even into old age - is the most important breakthrough in neuroscience in four centuries. In this revolutionary look at the brain, best-selling author, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., introduces both the brilliant scientists championing this new science of neuroplasticity and the astonishing progress of the people whose lives they've transformed.

Introducing principles we can all use, as well as a riveting collection of case histories - stroke patients cured, a woman with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, learning and emotional disorders overcome, IQs raised, and aging brains rejuvenated - The Brain That Changes Itself has "implications for all human beings, not to mention human culture, human learning and human history." (The New York Times)

©2008 Norman Doidge (P)2008 Brilliance Audio

Critic Reviews

"Fascinating. Doidge's book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain." (Oliver Sacks)"Readers will want to read entire sections aloud and pass the book on to someone who can benefit from it....Links scientific experimentation with personal triumph in a way that inspires awe." ( The Washington Post)

What members say

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  • Overall

Worth reading

As someone who had 4 massive strokes at age 25 I had to fight to get back all that I have. I was told just 7 years ago that after 3 months my recovery was done. That was it. When you're in that situation you can either accept it or not, I chose not to accept it. Neurologists are all amazed as to what I got back. So I love this book, it might not matter to you in your life but if you know someone's who has had a severe brain injury, all you can tell them is to keep trying. Don't let the doctors tell you to give up, don't accept it. Keep trying! Let's see how many doctors we can confuse, lol. There's one thing that everyone can accept about the brain and that is we know nothing about it. So good job Dr. Doidge.

71 of 75 people found this review helpful

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Amazing & Wonderful

This is a book for people who enjoy scientific theory and the exploration of concepts related to anatomy and physiology. It examines how the brain works, changes, grows and repairs itself. It presents thoughts about how the brain evolves throughout life--involving neuroplasticity, aging, illness and injury. Thirty plus years ago it was thought that the brain and nervous system were static--once injured always injured. How exciting it is to see how this thinking has evolved. To me it was a hopeful, insightful, and fascinating listening experience.

36 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 06-21-15

Change your Brain

I rated this 5 stars because, in some ways, this is a 5 star listen even though it sometimes goes off the rails.

The main point of the book is that until recently it was believed that the brain was largely hard-wired and could not heal and there is new research showing the brain can indeed heal, changes physically in response to environment, and can re-organize itself in response to sensory changes (blindness, deafness, paralysis, etc.) In 2008 there was still significant resistance to the studies demonstrating neuroplasticity, but since that time neuroplasticity has become much more widely accepted.

The book sometimes becomes a bit bombastic in its promotion of neuroplasticity, but then it self corrects pointing out neuroplasticity is responsible for both great positive and negative changes depending upon the circumstances. Some of the predictions are overly optimistic and many of the stories are antidotal.

Nevertheless for those unaware of the research into neuroplasticity, or just want to hear interesting stories about people who have improved their lives by changing their brains, or if you are not sure you can alter your own behavior, this is a great book, and worth my 5 star rating.

But, there are a few things I found not quite so great.

There is an odd long passage on the dangers of internet porn, which delves into long graphically explicit details of sadomasochism. The author seems to fear internet porn will (literally) warp the brains of young Americans altering them into perverts. This does not worry me too much. This whole section just oozes with Freudian overtones.

The author is an odd mix of classical Freudian psychotherapist and neuroplasticity researcher and this book is peppered with various bits of Freudian language and ideas that have little or nothing to do with neuroplasticity. I found much of this material outdated, and in any case, it was off topic for this book.

The narration, although not at all bad, is a bit to bombastic for my taste.

33 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Carole
  • Camas, WA, USA
  • 06-18-08

Perfect Timing

It is great to know that those with brain injuries, abnormal brain development and boomers move into the later stages of life can take control of their mental health. It is a fascinating subject. We learn that many ideas held about the brain are being proved false. Read, learn and be empowered. Oh yeah, there is also a sales pitch in there,,,,

51 of 58 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Text book

Very informative. A must for scientific minds. Much like a text book on the brain in its scientific feel. Focus on brain damage and defects repair. Would have been more interesting if there were more examples of how normal brain people can use this research to strengthen their brains.

60 of 69 people found this review helpful

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  • Kenneth
  • LEESBURG, VA, United States
  • 03-16-09

Very Important

The basic thesis of the book is that the brain can be radically rewired through experience. That this can happen until shortly before the point of death and that this is the norm has only very recently been accepted as a mainstream view in science. This book is probably the first good survey of this revolutionary new understanding.

The book is entertaining more than scientifically rigorous. That doesn't mean that the basic thesis of the book is scientifically suspect (it is not), just that the book doesn't attempt scrupulous rigor.

It contains sections on the formation of sexual fetishes that make for slightly creepy reading and sections on psychodynamic that are probably pretty speculative. But it also contains truly inspirationally stories of recover from stroke and other misfortunes.

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Brandon
  • TWIN LAKES, WI, United States
  • 12-29-13

Skepticism Required

I found this particular book somewhat difficult because of the vacillating nature of its quality. When its author is simply providing denotative descriptions of studies in neuroplasticity, he does so elegantly, engagingly, and cogently. However, when he extrapolates beyond the direct presentation of previous studies and enters the realm of his own speculation, he seems dangerously swayed by confirmation biases and, at times, completely unable or unwilling to consider alternative interpretations of the data. Additionally: much of the book reads as an uncritical, unsupportable love letter to Freud that the reader, with time, comes to suspect is the author's personal attempt to justify a counseling career spent practicing Freud's version of psychoanalysis despite mounting evidence that the vast majority of Freud's hypotheses have been shown to be demonstrably false. Indeed, the sections of THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF that are most scientifically questionable are those in which Doidge steps away from neuroscience entirely to describe case studies of his own personal patients---studies in which he treats all of his perceptions and gut intuitions as incontrovertible facts.

I feel the need to reiterate, however, that those parts of the book that share neurological studies are really very strongly worth reading. I might even be pressed to call them requisite reading for anyone interested in neuroplasticity--even those already versed in it.

On the whole, this book is quite worth reading, though its overall quality varies. The good parts are marvelous, the bad parts are terrible, and there really isn't much in between. I do recommend it but only with the warning that heightened criticality and skepticism will be necessary to sort out the gold from the pyrite.

Jim Bond is a wonderful narrator with a calming, avuncular voice and style, and for these qualities, he deserves high marks. However, it is evident from both his pronunciation and phrasing that many of the concepts broached and vocabulary used in this book were not familiar to him at the time of his reading, and therefore, pronunciations of common neuroscience words are strange and sometimes obfuscating (e.g.: Bond pronounces amygdala as "ah-mig-DAH-la", and his reading gets glassy when discussions get technical). Additionally, though not all folk will find this distracting, Bond has a rather pronounced whistle to his sibilant consonants, and has a high probability (estimated: 70%) of whistling on any given "S". I personally found this distracting, but not so terribly that I set aside the book.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Liron
  • San Jose, CA United States
  • 04-03-10

Surprisingly enlightening

I'm very interested in the subject matter, but I was afraid this would be too dumbed-down and oversimplified. I was skeptical that it would enhance my knowledge of the brain.

I was pleasantly surprised by the detailed characterization of mental plasticity. This is definitely one of my favorite audiobooks.

I also think this goes well together with Jeff Hawkins' "On Intelligence" audiobook.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff
  • Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • 02-11-09

Blew my mind

This book is a comprehensive survey of evidence in the realm of neuro-plasticity... the ability of the brain to change. I really enjoyed this book, and found it to be profoundly mind-opening. However, the chapter on psychoanalysis was a little sketchy. Other than that, a great book that lights the way for neuroscience for the next decades.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Infomercial, not a scientific review

The hour of fawning over a software package (that supposedly licenses for $2000 per year!!!) and the anecdotal miracle stories made me suspicious. There are several scientific studies about this software, pro and con, that were never mentioned and certainly no negatives were given. This undermines the credibility of the book - his depiction of unfairly maligned geniuses and miracle cures too threatening to science to publish and treatments ahead of their time.

I was looking for a credible synthesis of research in layman's terms or interesting case studies, but I frankly can't believe any of the conclusions. The author may have thoroughly researched the topic, but it feels like he sought out anecdotes and research to support his premise and ignored everything else.

Skip this and read something from a more credible source. Yes it is easy to understand the simplified concept, but the slick-voiced reader and the biased work make this a no.

50 of 69 people found this review helpful