My favorite science book this year (so far) is Norman Doidge‘s The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph From the Frontiers of Brain Science.
If you enjoy reading Oliver Sacks (I’ve read Awakenings and An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales), you’ll probably be fascinated by The Brain That Changes Itself.
Click here to read an excerpt from the author’s website.
My freshman year at MIT, I took a few classes within the in Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at MIT (course 9 as we called it) and even considered majoring in BCS. So I have had a very basic education of the brain and have long been interested in brain science.
Anyway, I thought of The Brain That Changes Itself today when I read Nicholas Bakalar’s April 29, 2008 New York Times article “Memory Training Shown to Turn Up Brainpower.” The research described in Bakalar’s article confirms Doidge‘s book about the brain’s plasticity (neuroplasticity) — the theory that changes in the brain can occur as a result of experience, which challenges the old idea that we can’t change our brains (that we are “hard-wired”).
“Memory Training Shown to Turn Up Brainpower” discusses a study that improved participants “working memory” (“the kind that allows memorization of a telephone number just long enough to dial it”) using various techniques and then tested the participant’s “fluid intelligence” (“the kind of mental ability that allows us to solve new problems without having any relevant previous experience,” which has been thought to be innate).
I suspect that scientists will continue to learn more about neuroplasticity and that in not so distant future, we’ll be able to cure strokes, paralysis and other “incurable” diseases/symptoms that stem from the brain.
By the way, I loved The Brain That Changes Itself and highly recommend it. It was one of those books that I could not put down. The stories of neuroplasticity will shock you, yet the stories are uplifting and inspirational.