The Brain that Changes Itself Book Summary - The Brain that Changes Itself Book explained in key points
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The Brain that Changes Itself summary

Norman Doidge

Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

4.5 (303 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

"The Brain that Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge is a revolutionary book that describes the incredible brain's plasticity by sharing stories of people that overcame neurological impediments and changing their lives.

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    The Brain that Changes Itself
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    The brain changes itself through processes like “unmasking.”

    For years it was thought that the brain, once fully formed, was fixed until it deteriorated with age. But with the rise of neuroplasticity, we’re discovering this couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to continually change itself. The prefix “neuro” refers to neurons, i.e., the nerve cells in our brains and nervous systems, and the suffix “plastic” means changeable. The brain, then, alters its nerve structure and function through thought and activity.

    But how exactly does the brain reorganize itself? One way is through unmasking.

    Unmasking describes what happens when one neural pathway is shut off and a secondary one is exposed, the latter becoming stronger with repeated use.

    Cheryl Schiltz is a great example of this phenomenon. For five years, each time she stood up, she would lose her balance. She had almost entirely lost the vestibular system of her brain – the area needed for balance. That is, until one of the pioneers of neuroplasticity, Paul Bach-y-Rita, designed a special device that Schiltz could wear.

    The device, called an accelerometer, sent signals to a plastic strip containing electrodes, which had been placed on Schiltz’s tongue. The sensations on her tongue were then redirected to the area in Schiltz’s brain that processed balance, rather than going where they normally went: to the sensory cortex, the area that processes touch.

    After much practice with the device, a new pathway in Schiltz's brain was unmasked and strengthened, and she began to regain her balance on her own.

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    What is The Brain that Changes Itself about?

    How can stroke victims who become paralyzed start using a fork or buttoning their shirts again? Well, contrary to what was believed for so long, the brain is not hardwired. It can change, regenerate and grow. Drawing on real-life cases of scientists, doctors and patients, The Brain that Changes Itself (2007) shows us how, rather than relying on surgery and medicine, we can alter our brains through thought and behavior.

    The Brain that Changes Itself Review

    The Brain that Changes Itself (2007) explores the incredible capacity of the brain to rewire and adapt throughout our lives. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Packed with mind-blowing case studies, it demonstrates how people have overcome neurological challenges and transformed their lives.
    • Backed by scientific research, the book provides a deeper understanding of neuroplasticity and how it can be harnessed for personal growth.
    • With its fascinating exploration of the brain's potential, the book is far from boring, keeping readers engaged and eager to learn more.

    Best quote from The Brain that Changes Itself

    [Nature] has given us a brain that survives in a changing world by changing itself.

    —Norman Doidge
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    Who should read The Brain that Changes Itself?

    • Anyone who wants to change their habits
    • Psychology students
    • Anyone seeking inspiration while recovering from an injury

    About the Author

    Norman Doidge is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and researcher at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research and the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry. His work has been published in many popular media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, TIME and The Guardian. Doidge has appeared frequently on TV and radio and is a New York Times bestselling author.

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    The Brain that Changes Itself FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Brain that Changes Itself?

    The brain is capable of change and neuroplasticity, which has profound implications for our understanding of ourselves and our potential.

    How long does it take to read The Brain that Changes Itself?

    The reading time for The Brain that Changes Itself varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Brain that Changes Itself a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Brain that Changes Itself is worth reading for its groundbreaking insights on the brain's capacity for change, inspiring stories, and practical applications for personal growth.

    Who is the author of The Brain that Changes Itself?

    The author of The Brain that Changes Itself is Norman Doidge.

    What to read after The Brain that Changes Itself?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Brain that Changes Itself, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Brain by David Eagleman
    • The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge
    • Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon by Rahul Jandial
    • The Disordered Mind by Eric R. Kandel
    • Incognito by David Eagleman
    • Listen Like You Mean It by Ximena Vengoechea
    • Livewired by David Eagleman
    • The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean
    • Pivot by Jenny Blake
    • Fully Present by Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston