Guest Post Review by Shweta Ramdas

Too many times, it becomes difficult to read all the reviews in my to-be-reviewed pile. So it’s wonderful when someone offers to guest review for the site. Shweta Ramdas was nice enough to do a guest post review which I’ve posted below.

Thanks Shweta!


The Brain That Changes Itself- by Norman Doidge 4.5 out of 5 stars

A Book Review by guest reviewer Shweta Ramdas (www.indiansummers.wordpress.com)



We all talk about how ‘10000 hours’ rule inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, about how spending enough time on an activity would lead to mastery of it. The essential message of the book ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ talks about why this is true biologically.
Intrinsically, this is a popular science book that dispels common notions in science, putting forth research that should have been in the spotlight but isn’t because of its being overshadowed by conventional viewpoints. Every student of biology learns about brain maps in their textbooks, a diagram that divides the brain into distinct and well-delineated regions each performing a specific function. We were all taught that this was the schema in each of our heads, and this is what the author Norman Doidge rejects. He provides compelling evidence to the fact that our brain is not hardwired when we are born, but are constantly getting wired- this is what he calls “Neuroplasticity”.
The book starts by describing a woman given to bouts of imbalance because of an impaired vestibular system which is responsible for balance in our bodies. She is treated by a prodigious doctor who plants receptors on her back and magically makes her brain recognize input from another part of the body. Later, scientists show the converse. They treat stroke patients by training a healthy part of the brain to receive input from nerves that originally transmitted signals to other, injured locations in the brain. Both of these examples point to the brain constantly learning new things, including its own structure and connections that exist in it. Sure, these rewirings are faster in babies, which is why they are so quick to learn, but don’t use that as an excuse to stay in your comfort zone- all brains can rewire themselves with the right stimulation!
The book has a Freudian take on love and sex. It states (with numerous examples, but of course) that our proclivities in love and sexual partners are a result of some innate connections in our brain that are created during childhood experiences. It also talks about, and this might interest many, why we turn to romantic poetry and raptures of happiness when we fall in love. It’s because love produces the same responses in our brains as cocaine, as does an apparently non-addictive activity like running!
Apart from ‘don’t try this at home’ cures to OCDs like a suicidal college student shooting himself in his head only to find himself rid of his OCDs, a man addicted to sadomasochism who is cured of his obsession, blind patients who can see with an apparatus consisting of a camera which transmits electrical signals to their tongue, autistic children who develop social well-being and children with improved IQ prove gripping instances that the author uses to illustrate his points. The brain is one of the greatest mysteries to mankind, and the author unravels many of its workings eloquently making this a fascinating read. Dollops of interesting facts and trivia, and understanding the way we work and why we feel the way we do about a lot of things is thoroughly enjoyable.
Without explicitly saying so, the book talks about how we are as much about our genetic makeup as about what we feed our brain and turn it into. All we must do to improve ourselves is apply ourselves to it and pay close attention. If you’re asking if there’s a way to learn to pay closer attention, well, the answer, is to pay closer attention! We are what we do, is what the author seem

to say, and what he tries to show makes us greater masters of our destiny.

One Response to “Guest Post Review by Shweta Ramdas”

  1. Well!!!!!!
    “The book starts by describing a woman given to bouts of imbalance because of an impaired vestibular system which is responsible for balance in our bodies. She is treated by a prodigious doctor who plants receptors on her back and magically makes her brain recognize input from another part of the body. Later, scientists show the converse. They treat stroke patients by training a healthy part of the brain to receive input from nerves that originally transmitted signals to other, injured locations in the brain. Both of these examples point to the brain constantly learning new things, including its own structure and connections that exist in it. Sure, these rewirings are faster in babies, which is why they are so quick to learn, but don’t use that as an excuse to stay in your comfort zone- all brains can rewire themselves with the right stimulation!”

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