The Brain That Changes Itself

The Brain That Changes Itself
Book Review

Author: Norman Doidge

Rating: 4.8/5


A couple of days ago, I finished a marvelous book about Neuroscience, an area which always gives me enormous energy to study my mind and my mighty brain. This book was also all about the brain, its mercurial phenomenons, and how some brave-hearted person fighting their whole life to established a new branch of science called Neuroplasticity.

This book literally divided into 11 chapters. It’s big, isn’t it?. But, I will try my best to sum-up the main theme of every chapter I read with seven-story, which is actually a summary of the most important chapter. Hopefully, this writing will open your new window of imagination about brain exercise. Let’s start!

Story 01: The Woman who Perpetually Fall

Cheryl, a woman with normal shape, thick skin, and curly hair, has a problem in her vestibular apparatus, the sensory organ for balance system which is not working properly. As a result, Cheryl felt she fall down all the time toward the land surface, even she sat on her bed or walk inside the garden. So, the doctor who engaged with Cheryl problem investigates this case. Normal Research about this topic suggests: visual, auditory, and sensory corticle are specific to their specific function. But, Neuroplastic research suggests that visual, auditory, and sensory cortices all have similar six layers of processing structure.

So, if one part of a corticle becomes malfunctioned, the brain has the ability to reprogram itself and play the function of another part. This research of neuroscience pushed Cheryl into specific brain practice which ultimately fills the gap and she completely overcomes her problems.

‘Tongue’ is the most ideal machine interface of the brain to collect any informations.

Interesting information
Story 02: Building Herself A Better Brain

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, a woman who have serious neurolinguistic disabilities. (Neurolinguistic problem: Grammar, word, language learning problem of the brain.) She cannot distinguish the differences between the English letter ‘p’ and ‘q’ and between letter ‘b’ and ‘d’. This is called ‘mirror writing problem’ in neuroscience. However, this woman began to exercise her brain with the help of a neurologist. After an intense amount of brain exercise, she found that her ability to recognize correct symbol increased day by day. This incident justified that, certain brain exercise can change our brain activity, even though it was a serious medical disease.

‘Children have more ability to recover learning disabilities than adolescence because Immature brain has 50% more neurons than the adult

Important Point
Story 03: Redesigning the brain

This is the story of Micheal Merzenich, one of the finest Neuroplasticist in the world. He developed one of the most famous brain exercising system called ‘Fast forward’. Treatment through this system cognitive disabilities can repair fully and numerous observation done successfully in various patients, who have this disorder in the past. They (Merzenich and his team) developed the insights of dynamic nature of neurons. Finally, they concluded three Important sentences of the Neuroplasticity world. Those sentences are:

1. “Use it or lose it”

2. “Neurons that fire together wire together”

3. “Neurons that fire apart wire apart”

Their team also observed that every human has a ‘critical period’ of the learning system in his or her life. Any learning during the critical period is significant because nucleus basalis is always on the positive mode in this time. Most of the fascinating and prodigious nature of a man actually established in this little period of life. Merzenich now works on the development of a mental eraser system of the human brain so that people can easily erase the unnecessary bad memory and experiences. How beautiful this woman with a magnificent brain.

Story 04: Acquiring Tastes and Love

Very often our thought process tired about the one common question: How does married couple stay with each other whole life? aren’t they tired or test-less with each other?

The answer is quite simple. There is a system in the human brain called ‘libidos’, which is primarily responsible for attraction. In the case of a married couple ‘libido’ is adjusted with a beautiful process and they remain attracted whole life.

The brain structure that regulates our instinctive behaviors including sex is called hypothalamus. It is plastic in nature, I mean it can change itself as like as ‘amygdala’, a structure that processes emotion and anxiety of our daily life. Sigmund Freud, the finest psychologist of his generation argued that “An adult’s ability to love intimately and sexual unfolds in stages, beginning int he infant’s first passionate attachment its parents”. He also added that sexual taste is obviously influenced by culture, experiences and is often than wired into the brain.

Story 05: Pornography and Character of an Addicted Brain

The modern generation is heavily suffered from pornography addiction. As a result of this harmful addiction, impotence and erectile dysfunction very common disorder in our society. All addiction (e.g. social media, youtube, video gaming) involve long term neuroplastic changes in the brain, which is very difficult to recover for an addict. Porn addiction works as like as a drug named ‘cocaine’ in an addicted brain. People those who are used to watch pornographs regularly think that they have a problem in their penis. But they are wrong, they have a HUGE problem in their head.

Dopamine, an important neurotransmitter played a significant role in our reward transmission system. When we accomplish something such as winning a race or getting the desired result sheet, our brains trigger its release. In the case of the addictive brain, our dopamine system is hijacked and an addictive substance gives us pleasure without having to work for it. The addictive drug also produced a protein called ‘DelFOsB’, which play a valuable mechanism in this dopamine hijacking system.

An addicted brain becomes sensitized rather than tolerant. Sensitized lead to increase ‘wanting thoughts’ not necessarily ‘liking thoughts’. Because porn addict most of the time watch those shitty videos because they ‘crave to it’ not because they ‘like it’. We have learned to separate the pleasure system of our brain. There are two systems of pleasure.

1. Exciting pleasure

Pornography is related to exciting things rather than satisfying one. The exciting system related to the ‘appetite pleasure’ so that we can get imagining something we desire, such as sex or a good meal. Its neurochemistry is largely dopamine-related and it releases our tension level.

2. Satisfying pleasure.

Satisfying pleasure like having sex, having that meal, a calming and fulfilling pleasure. Neurochemistry of these type of pleasure mostly based on the release of an enzyme called ‘endorphins’, which is related to ‘opiates‘ and gives us peaceful euphoric bliss.

Aesthetic Quotes

“We love being in love not only because makes it easy for us to be happy but also because it makes it harder for us to be unhappy”.

“The deepest meaning of sexual experience lies not in pleasure, or even in reproduction, but in the opportunity it affords to surmount the solipsistic goal, opening the door, so to speak, whether or not one undertakes the work to go through. it is after play, not the foreplay, that counts in building trust”

Story 06: Midnight Resurrection: How a stroke person changes his Speaking and Movement disability.

In this story, ‘differentiation’ was the most popular term. A surgical procedure in which the incoming sensory nerves are cut so none of their input can make this trip. A different monkey cannot sense where its affected limbs are in space or feel any sensation or pain in them when touched.

From there (Sherrington and team) ‘Reflexological theory of movement’ became arises. According to this theory, ‘All of our movement occurs in response to some stimulus and that we move, not because of our brains command it, but because our spinal reflex keeps us moving‘. But, Sherrington ‘reflexological theory’ was lost its validity because of the ‘learned nonus theory’ given by Taub. This theory described monkeys that had both arms differentiated were able to use them because they had never had the opportunity to learn that they didn’t work well. They had to use them to survive.

Story 07: Brain lock unlocked: how to stops worries, obsession, compulsions, and bad habits.

The author described Interesting point about making a mistake. When we made a mistake, three things happen in our brain. First, we get a ‘mistake feeling’ that nagging sense that something is wrong. Second, we become ‘anxious’ and that anxiety drives us to correct our mistakes. Third, when we have corrected the mistake, an automatic ‘gearshift in our brain’ allow us to move on the next thought or activity. Then both the mistake feeling and anxiety disappear.

But the person who has an obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD) does not move or turn on the page. Even though he has corrected his spelling mistake, washed the germs off his hands, or apologized for forgetting his friends birthday, he continues to obsess. His automatic gearshift does not work, and the mistaken feeling and its pursuant anxiety build in intensity.

Neuroscientist Schwarts divided the treatment of OCD into two key steps:

1. ‘Reliable’ what is happening to him, so that he realizes that what he is experience is not an attack of germs, AIDS or battery acid but an episode of OCD.

2. ‘Refocus on a positive’, wholesome ideally pleasure-giving activity the moment he becomes aware he is having an OCD attack. From this hypothesis, there is a theory that:

‘With obsession and compulsion, the more you do it, the more you want it; the less you do it, the less you want to do it’


Neuroplasticity is one of the few fields of science which gradually diminished before it actually arrived. But scientists mention above and this book retains the position of this field with sheer tenacity, courage, and hard work. To conclude, It is a great book for any brain lover. Happy Reading!

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