Book Review: The Brain That Changes Itself

This book is incredibly fascinating. It carefully explains how the brain continuously transforms throughout our lives and is capable of changing, overcoming disabilities, learning and recovering. The main concept behind the book is that the brain itself is plastic and can actually change itself through exercise and understanding; this is known as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations but also expands our understanding of the healthy brain and its resilience.

Throughout the book we meet patients, scientists and researchers who have all been involved with neuroplasticity and have helped in paving the way to understanding the brain and how it functions. Through a riveting collection of case histories, it becomes obvious how remarkable the information within this field is and how it can change people’s lives.

There are so many amazing points and discoveries within this book. Not only are researchers helping people to positively change their lives but patients who have exercised their brain in different ways have been able to rewire it to help with disabilities, autism, strokes, addictions and mental illness.

Dr. Doidge shows us how brain maps are dynamic and change based on the ‘use it or lose it’ principle. If you don’t use your brain, you’ll lose it. Furthermore, brain maps work by spatially grouping events that happen together and firing those same groups of neurons. For example, throwing a ball many times the same way creates a brain map where the thumb map is next to the index finger map, and then the middle finger. This coincides with the concept that ‘neurons that fire together wire together.’ This means that when you do something over and over again, whatever body part is expressed (the hand and arm when throwing a ball) will essentially be creating neural pathways together.

It was captivating to read about the different discoveries, programs and techniques in regards to neuroplasticity. From everything that I read, my biggest take away is that we need to continuously use our brains in different ways. Even as we age we need to try new things, start new hobbies, and just overall keep learning. Some suggestions in the book were learning a new language, taking dance lessons or learning to play an instrument. The main point was that we need to not only read to learn but also learn new things while using our body.

After reading this book I was really intrigued and I started to play brain games on my phone (PEAK and Lumosity are well reviewed) and I’m currently reteaching myself how to play the guitar. After only a week I felt a little smarter and that my memory was improving. I’ve also recognised that I would like to improve my mental math skills. What is one thing that you can do to help strengthen your neural pathways?

Although the book itself is quite lengthy, if you’re interested in understanding the brain more, this book is definitely worth reading.

By: Cortnie Dawn

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