Author: Norman Doidge, M.D.
Publisher: Penguin Group
New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Norman Doidge's second book, The Brain's Way of Healing begins where his last book, The Brain That Changes Itself ends off.
As Dr. Doidge points out, the first book described the most important breakthrough in understanding the brain in that it is neuroplastic which means that brain is able to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience. The concept of the “plastic” brain, or the idea that the brain can reorganize its functions is a fairly new concept in Western Medicine. For hundreds of years it was believed that the brain could not change and scientists thought of the brain as a machine with various parts performing single mental functions in a single location in the brain.
Doidge has traveled to five continents to meet with several second
generation neuroplasticians, clinicians, as well as their patients to
listen to their stories and how they have stumbled upon
neuroplasticity and perfected treatment techniques, even before
plasticity had been demonstrated in the lab.
These were patients that were told they would never get better based on the belief that the term “healing” was seldom used in connection with the brain, as we see with other organ systems, such as the skin, bones or the digestive tract. In fact, there are still many non-believers in the science of neuroplasticity, however, Dr. Doidge asserts that you don't have to believe in it, but you have to suspend your disbelief and just do it.
As pointed out, the brain is not too sophisticated and the book illustrates that this sophistication, which involves brain cells are able to constantly communicate electrically with one another, and to form and re-form new connections, moment by moment, which gives us a unique kind of healing. Dr. Doidge admits that in the course of specializing, important reparative abilities that are available to other organs, were lost. Nonetheless, others were gained, and they are mostly expressions of the brain's plasticity.
To demonstrate, Dr. Doidge provides readers with stories pertaining to different facets of neuroplastic ways of healing as well as the stages, how it works and why. These concern people that have transformed their brains, recovered lost parts of themselves, or discovered capacities within themselves.
Included is a Parkinson's sufferer residing in South Africa who has devised an exercise program with a special kind of concentration that has not cured his Parkinsons but has permitted him to live a nearly normal life. There are four new interventions described in the book for traumatic brain injury including the use low-intensity lasers. We discover how blind people can learn to interpret visual images though the sense of touch, and how someone could regain a sense of balance using the tongue, years after the injury or disease. Dr. Doidge also explains the advances in neuromodulation or the use of external stimulation to intentionally change and regulate the electrochemical environment of the brain. In another chapter we see how the use of light to reawaken dormant neural circuits and another concerning healing of serious brain problems through mental awareness.
Not only is this a fascinating read, thick with information pertaining to a timely, complex subject, but it is easy to jump around to chapters that may have a particular interest such as brain injury or Parkinsons. No doubt, there is always a possibility that false hope can be raised by the stories and examples, however, Dr. Doidge is always cautious to never give any guarantees but if a particular procedure cannot harm you, why not give it a try.