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"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Monday, October 6, 2008

Re-wiring Your Brain With Your Thoughts

Recently I mentioned Dr. Norman Doidge in The Mind is Not the Brain.

Today I refer to him again, in order to explore with somewhat greater emphasis his excellent book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

The main topic of the book is neuro-plasticity which refers to, in Doidge's own words: the revolutionary discovery that the human brain can change itself.

He explains that the belief that the brain could not change had three major sources:
  • the fact that brain-damaged patients could so rarely make full recoveries
  • our inability to observe the living brain's microscopic activities
  • and the idea - dating back to the beginnings of modern science . that the brain is like a glorious machine. And while machines do many extraordinary things, they don't change and grow.

Doidge has written a book filled with stories about individuals who were able to change their brains in order to accomodate a situation that no longer allowed them to live their lives the way they previously had.

A point in case is that of a woman who could not keep her balance due to an antibiotic she had been prescribed that left her balance system impaired. Many such people commit suicide because there was no cure. With the help of what Doidge calls neuroplasticians (those who work with this concept of a brain that is able to change itself) her brain has been able to make changes to such a degree that she no longer has any difficulty keeping her balance.

He writes that these neuroplasticians showed that:

  • children are not always stuck with the mental abilities they are born with
  • the damaged brain can often reorganize itself so that when one part fails, another can often substitute
  • if brain cells die, they can at times be replaced
  • many "circuits" and even basic reflexes that we think are hardwired are not

Another example Doidge cites is that we now know that we are able to change our brain anatomy simply by using our imaginations thanks to the work of Alvaro Pascual-Leone from Valencia, Spain, chief of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard.

Doidge writes: I met a scientist who enabled people who had been blind since birth to begin to see, another who enabled the deaf to hear; I spoke with people who had had strokes decades before and had been declared incurable, who were helped to recover with neuroplastic treatments; I met people whose learning disorders were cured and whose IQs were raised; I saw evidence that it is possible for eighty-year-olds to sharpen their memories to function the way they did when they were fifty-five. I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and traumas. I spoke with Nobel laureates who were hotly debating how we must re-think our model of the brain now that we know it is ever changing.

Read this book. It will change the way you think.

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