Book Reviews -- Body Health -- Brain Health
Author: Norman Doidge, M.D.
Title: The Brain That Changes Itself
Book Review 23.12.2008
(c) 2008 by Heidrun Beer
This book review was originally published on a mailing list for oldtime Scientologists. It therefore contains special words from the Scientology universe, marked in italic print. Please look them up in a Scientology dictionary.
Norman Doidge, M.D.: The Brain That Changes Itself
Thankfully dedicated to Claus B. Hansen, wo wrote on Sat, 29 Nov 2008 20:42:36 +0100, in <49319B2C.4040609@Basic.dk>:
>if you really want to explore how to implement in
>praxis what ever you and your are working with,
>then kindly do read this book:
>The BRAIN That CHANGES ITSELF
> by Norman Doidge, M.D.
... which got me curious, so I ordered the book and put it on top of the stacks of other books that are populating the empty half of my double bed, waiting for my time and attention.
WHY LEARN ABOUT THE BRAIN?
Now, the big question is: why would a spiritually oriented person want to read a book about the brain in the first place?
Of course I can answer this question only for myself - and for myself, the contempt placed upon the body by many spiritual people, many Scientologists among them too, is a mistake, because we cannot perceive and manage too well what we reject or invalidate.
There is only one alternative to using a brain and a body, which is to drop the body and continue life on the "other side", in the energy worlds.
As long as we use a brain and a body, we better do it with affinity and interest, so we can perceive them well enough to catch all their various signals, and stay at cause, instead of going effect to negative processes that start outside our perception because we have turned our attention away from our very interface with the physical world.
If you agree with me so far, the actual book review comes after a few more lines :-)
THE BLACK BOX IN OUR HEADS
We human beings, the spiritual ones included, use our brains as a "black box":
"A black box is any device, sometimes highly important, whose workings are not understood by or accessible to its user."
With the exception of brain scientists, none of us thinks much about how the brain performs skills like coordinating movement, breathing, digestion, or the thousands of activities necessary to finetune our hormonal balance - not to mention memory or all the motor skills that are needed for our professional lives.
We notice the brain only when it fails - when a stroke renders half of our body useless, or when we pass out or hallucinate because of a high fever, or react to decades of a toxic lifestyle with "diseases" like Alzheimer's, where we lose our life's memory, and all our experience and judgement and OT-ness just dissipate.
The babbling zombie in his wheelchair demonstrates what we are without our brain. Now it becomes apparent that there is a spanner in the works of our black box. Too bad, because right then we would need the black box in good shape in order to get the very same black box repaired. (The obvious solution - to borrow another black box which is undamaged, until our own is repaired - would of course easily occur to us, if the black box were not creaking so badly... a nearly insolvable paradox.)
Right here we get our answer to the question why a spiritually oriented person would want to read a book about the brain: Because the spirit DOES have a physical interface as long as he lives in the physical world, and SO MUCH CAN BE DONE to address this physical interface - if we only know about it, and know where to send people who need specific procedures to rehab them after a birth trauma or stroke or accident or any other situation that has affected their brain. (Diet and lifestyle are not included here - I just covered them separately in the Traverso health manual).
I am sure that any auditor who recognizes health problems in his PC, will send this PC to the doctor, as the body and the spirit influence each other, and a case will not resolve as long as there is an unsolved body problem. He will certainly not tell him "Hey, why don't you get another body!" There is much more that can be done.
Now this book about the brain tells us very specifically which solutions have been developed to improve brain related body problems that have been considered hopeless for a long time - until some pioneer discovered a successful approach.
THE PLASTIC BRAIN
PLASTIC: fictile: capable of being molded or modeled (especially of earth or clay or other soft material); "plastic substances such as wax or clay"
For a long time, science believed that the brain had a firm structure. The input from the eyes belonged into a certain area, the input from the ears into a different area, tactile input into yet another area, etc. etc. Likewise, the brain areas responsible for moving fingers, hands, arms, legs were believed to be firmly "mapped", or in other words, "hardwired".
This view of the brain is called "localizationism". Now our author documents in his book the research of scientists who have reason to believe that the brain is NOT hardwired but can and does change its function according to its useage.
This model is called "neuroplasticity" and is the opposite of "localizationism". It explains why people can regain their speech after a brain area responsible for speech has been destroyed by a stroke, or why they can regain the use of an arm paralyzed by an accident, etc. etc.
Brain regions that have been doing different things take over the functions of the destroyed areas. New neurons grow and new connections form. The whole brain gets "re-mapped", and our author describes in detail the experiments that have been conducted to document all this.
But more important, he describes the cases of actual human people whose lives have been totally transformed by only a few weeks of intense exercises that were tailormade for their specific brain defect.
THE DECIDING FACTOR
All the mindboggling success stories that we are going to read, have one element in common: they work only with "focused attention". We would call that "Tone 40 intention". If the person - or often instead their caretaker or parent, as the patients are initially not up to the required strength - is not totally motivated, not totally willing to MOVE MOUNTAINS in order to remodel the problematic brain, nothing will happen. The book expressly states this.
But where does this intention come from, who provides it???
The essential component, the one that makes all the difference, is never mentioned in the book. In the whole 18 page index there is no single entry called "spirit" or "soul". Also no entries called "intention" or "hope" or "help" or "positive postulate". The one factor that, in my opinion, is able to mould ANYTHING, including a brain, is outside the book: the spiritual being with his absolute determination to
- MAKE THINGS GO RIGHT -
He or she is the DECIDING FACTOR. With that determination, the book is a useful tool to find out what can be done under which circumstances. Read on to see some astonishing examples...
- "Cheryl Schiltz feels like she's perpetually falling. And because she feels like she's falling, she falls."
This lady had her vestibular apparatus - the organ managing the balance system - destroyed by wrongly applied medication. Today she is DANCING again. She was permanently helped by a sophisticated combination of ingenious new technology and exercises that remodeled her brain function.
- Barbara Arrowsmith Young ha4 an "asymmetric brain", meaning that areas of brilliance coexisted with areas of retardation. Even her body reflected this asymmetry - her left side did not keep up with the right side. She also had reading problems and could not understand symbols.
Barbara rebuilt her own brain with self-designed exercises, inspired by the work of a brain scientist. She drilled and drilled and drilled, and then she drilled more and more, until she had solved all the problems that others never thought could be solved. Finally she founded a school where she is now providing the exercises she developed to kids and adults with similar problems.
These are only two examples. There are many more in the book that are just unbelievable. Purely physical problems like the ones described above are not the only ones that respond to brain exercises. People can also "unlearn" destructive patterns like obsessive worries, compulsions, always falling in love with the wrong type of woman, or internet porn addiction, etc. etc.
Stroke survivers can do so much to recover lost functions - much more than previously believed. Seniors can use brain exercises to rejuvenate their memory by something like 30 years (this is the second important part of a successful Alzheimer's approach, beside body detox and change of diet). Here we meet the stem cells again - it has long been thought that brain cells cannot be replaced, but the opposite has been found to be true.
A fascinating chapter deals with phantom pain after amputations, where people still feel pain in an arm or leg that is no longer there. The ideas that scientists had to handle such pains are mindboggling. Patients with many years of unmanageable phantom pains were still helped!
Blind people learn to see.
Most touching is the story about Michelle Mack, a girl who has been born with only one brain half. Brain plasticity has allowed her right brain half to take over many functions of the missing left. If we read about the emotions of such a person, it seems that no effort is too big to make their life better and happier.
WHAT MOTIVATES US?
We never learn about the motivation behind all the commitment and dedication in these patients, beside of course the insatiable curiosity of the researchers themselves. Somehow, the wish to survive, and survive better than before, seems to be built firmly into all the protagonists of these stories.
For a spiritual being, who knows that s/he is immortal, survival may fall away as a motivation, or at least it is no longer on automatic.
We may throw away a damaged body much more easily, if we know that we can find a better one instead. The adventure of winning the battle against a debilitating disease may not be so fascinating anymore if we see the alternative of a new start with an undamaged vehicle, or if we are finished with life in a body altogether.
But how about the adventure of winning against all odds?
How about achieving the apparently impossible?
How about exploring new, uncharted territory?
How about helping people whose spiritual awareness is not high enough to enable them to easily let go of a life in a body stricken with pain and disability? They may need to heal that body first before looking beyond physical life.
Or how about giving someone another decade or two, whose life is holding yet unlearned lessons in store for him, with all the screenplays fully written and the actors lined up and waiting to play their parts?
How about simple compassion with human suffering?
I see many reasons to not give up quickly on a damaged brain - not after all the work that has been done by dedicated researchers to overcome these difficulties.
After all, we go to car workshops too, and don't scrap our good old car just because the clutch breaks :-))