Book Review: “The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” by Norman Doidge

The author went to a great length to convince me and readers that our brains are plastic (changeable, not local/non-changeable) and are capable of changes if we push ourselves to use the under-/un-developed areas of our brains. Neurons that fire together stay together in the same area of the brain and neurons that stay apart in the brain if not used together. This is the reason why the sensors for our arms got mapped to our chins/lips, where the phantom pains/itches often got mapped into for those who got their arms/hands amputated.

The author also covered topics on sexual plasticity (addiction to porn) and presented evidences that autism may be affected by noisy environment that cause many unrelated neurons to be firing, resulted in the malfunction of our neuron filter that screens out unimportant/unrelated signals. Very interesting theory. Of course, one cannot rule out the gene defects as the possible causes.

There are examples of masochism/sadism that can be related to the brain development, which requires its re-wiring to be cured. The effect of Oxytocin is mentioned. Evidences of the brains’ being re-wired after a stroke are presented. The last example described is about a half-brain woman who didn’t have a left hemisphere at birth and how she was able to have the normally left-brain functions remapped to the right brain – a solid evidence that the brain is capable of rewiring.

Overall, this is a good read. A bit technical but full of supporting examples and evidences. It further encourages me to explore new areas of learning like a new language at my age to extend the brain health or suffer the atrophy of the brain. As the author repeated throughout the book, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” And if you use it or learn new skills to nurture the unused areas of the brain, you’d see your renaissance at your old age.