Friday, July 10, 2015

The Brain's Way of Healing: Book Review

Published 27 January 2015.
I enjoy reading about neuroplasticity for a variety of reasons:

1.  I am very interested in learning more about cognitive development through the rest of the life span after spending decades focused on teaching critical thinking to first-year college students.

2. Neuroplasticity offers positive views of aging and hope for people who have age-correlated problems.

3. I enjoy looking at the birth of a new scientific discipline.

For these reasons and others, I was eager to read Norman Doidge's new book on neuroplasticity.  The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity, pubished in January of 2015.

I find it contains some very intriguing case studies.  The book discusses well over a dozen cases in detail, but here are a few to serve as a quick preview:

We meet a midlife man who improved his walking despite a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, a midlife woman who recovers from Traumatic Brain Injury,  a boy diagnosed with ADHD who becomes more focused, and a toddler girl who overcomes a sensory processing disorder.

Doidge does a good job of explaining the workings of the brain and the developing theories that inform the science behind these emerging therapies.  I had to read the book slowly over several weeks.  It's technical. Nevertheless, it is aimed at the lay reader (not a scientist), but a lay reader with the equivalent of a college education.

It's interesting to read how people have used conscious movement, light, electricity, digitally altered voices, and music to improve hundreds of peoples' cognitive function.

The Brain's Way of Healing is packed full of information, making a thorough review challenging. In an effort to demonstrate the scope and potential application, let me list some of the entries in the index that receive substantive treatment in the pages of the book itself:

attention disorders * Alzheimer's disease * autism * chronic pain * depression *  hearing * noisy brain * Parkinson's disease * premature infants * sleep problems * stroke * traumatic brain injury * vision

True, the improvements in cognition described in the book may not be hard science at this point. Notice the word "frontiers" in the subtitle.  General readers and experts have a right to be skeptical.

The burden of evidence is still required in order to make the therapies described herein accepted by neurologists, psychologists, psychologists, speech language pathologists, and other health care professionals.   Doidge himself makes a call for large, randomized trials, and he gestures to the inception of a few studies based on these case studies.

Nevertheless, I found The Brain's Way of Healing completely worth my time in order to get a preview of what changes might be emerging on the horizon.   Doidge's descriptions of the various therapies makes me want to get up from the computer to engage in all of my senses in order to give my brain a great work out and to participate in more movement.


Being Brain Healthy
Basic Brain Books
Cognitive Changes: The Usual Suspects

1 comment:

  1. So many books and so little time. This one does sound useful, though.