Norman Doidge has a new book out – and you better believe I had it on my front porch on its publication day.
Doidge is a Toronto neuroscientist, teaching at U of T, and is most known for his first book: “The Brain That Changes Itself”. Reading his first work radically changed my view on learning, motivation, health, and skill acquisition. The chief medical philosophy that emerged from Norman and his fellow scientists’ work is that of neuroplasticity.
This is a radical new modality by which to view the brain suggests that it is not a fixed machine – that it can radically and fundamentally rewire itself in the face of intractable trauma, disease, and genetic predisposition. This flies in the face of 400 years of brain science, which stated that the brain is a series of discreet, static mechanisms that control limited elements of the mind and body. Lose one facet of the brain, and the corresponding mechanism is broken forever. Doidge’s work is proving this new view of the brain is more realistic, and more optimistic.
Doidge’s New book is called “The Brain’s Way of Healing”. TBTCI was primarily a book proving that Neuroplasticity existed. Now that the idea has gained traction in the neuroanatomical community, Doidge is left to explore and recount the more fantastical and encouraging stories of neuroplastic redemption. In the first few chapters, the reader explores the lives of people reverting and eliminating chronic pain through intense visualization exercises. Literally changing their brains by thinking about their brains changing! A process called “competitive plasticity”. We also learn of a man with Parkinson’s disease gaining back control of his body and diminishing symptoms through conscious body control similar to the practices of Tai Chi.
I love Doidge’s style of writing. He presents seeming medical miracles in a measured way avoiding gallows humor and morbid cynicism, but also false hope and magical-mindedness. One is left with a positive taste – the idea that we are in control of an organ of tremendous power. It was because of TBTCI that I started to learn Violin, Arabic, learned to juggle, and write with my left hand – all because I knew just how much by brain was benefiting from learning new things.