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The Brain That Changes Itself
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Learn the key ideas of the book by Norman Doidge

The Brain That Changes Itself

The boundless potential of the brain

The word neuroplasticity comes from “neuro” which means the brain, and “plasticity”, the ability to be shaped, or to change. The brain is plastic: it is capable of configuring and reconfiguring itself continuously, to better respond to external stimuli and thus allow us to survive. Neuroplasticity is the concept that has changed the core beliefs of neuroscience, opening the doors to the profound awareness that the brain can be trained like a muscle, that it can be treated and healed without resorting to surgery or medicine, and can be kept young and functional even in very advanced age. More and more researchers are engaged in studying this incredible faculty, and in designing exercise protocols that will allow us to free ourselves from the concept that the brain is unable to react, and that any damage caused is final. We now know that it isn’t, and that there is still so much we can do and discover. The Brain That Changes Itself will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.

The Brain That Changes Itself
Read in 16 min.
Listen in 20 min.

Established neuroscience is being called into question

Science has established many laws and established principles that much of the scientific community would like to leave written in stone. The history of neuroscience is a clear example of this.

For Western science, it all began with Galileo, and the love that his theories spread among scientists about the image of the human body as a machine, which moves and acts according to defined and immutable processes. Inside the body machine is the brain machine, which was also believed to be immutable.

Centuries later, came the pioneering research of Paul Broca, who found the first anatomical proof of localization, meaning that each area of the brain corresponds to a specific function. The developments in our knowledge of the brain have been slow. In the past, (when many scientific theories were established), and before the advent of precision surgery, scientific observation was focused on the brains of people who had suffered traumas and injuries, and whose brain function was therefore damaged. Studies were carried out on numerous WW1 victims, leading to the first images of the brain, and to the link between each specific brain part and its particular function, such as the interpretation of visual stimuli, reasoning, writing, and so on.

The brain as a machine and the concept of localizationism are firmly established beliefs among the scientific community. Scientists who suspected otherwise were very often opposed, if not even laughed at. World-wide and even violent protests against animal testing have also thwarted many research projects.

One of the more subtle consequences of insisting the brain is immutable is that it also implies that human beings themselves are incapable of change.


The key ideas of "The Brain That Changes Itself"

Established neuroscience is being called into question
Stating that the brain is a fixed machine would be to deny its wondrous capabilities
The brain is plastic (flexible). It can change
Everything we do is mapped by our brain
We can redesign our own brain maps
We can use neuroplasticity to stay young
Learning a new language creates competition in the brain
Neuroplasticity determines habits, addictions and obsessive compulsions
The brain can be trained like a muscle
Training the brain is the new frontier for autism
Imagination can be enough to change brain maps
Take-home message
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