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"The Brain That Changes Itself"
Book review by Kay Ross

"The Brain That Changes Itself – Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science"
by Norman Doidge, M.D. (Penguin Books, 2007)


If you're interested in human behaviour and psychology (and what coach isn't?!), this book is sure to fascinate you as much as it did me.

The author, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and researcher, reports on the latest research breakthroughs in many branches of neuroscience, and tells inspiring stories of patients who have benefitted from that research. Most importantly, he offers hope to patients with brain damage, and people suffering from emotional or psychiatric problems, by busting the myth that the structure and functioning of the brain and its parts are fixed, hard-wired and immutable.

In accessible, gripping language, he explains the concept of "neuroplasticity", the idea that the brain "changed its very structure with each different activity it performed, perfecting its circuits so it was better suited to the task at hand." This concept has far-reaching implications for medicine, learning, teaching, coaching, memory, communication, sport, relationships, business, marketing and many other fields of human endeavour.

Travelling the world, Dr Doidge met scientists and patients who proved that "children are not always stuck with the mental abilities they are born with; that the damaged brain can often reorganize itself so that when one part fails, another can often substitute; that if brain cells die, they can sometimes be replaced; that many 'circuits' and even basic reflexes that we think are hardwired are not."

The book ranges widely over such topics as stroke victims learning to move and speak again, the importance of "use it or lose it", autism, body image, addiction, blindness, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, evolution, attention deficit disorder, stem cells, phantom limbs, language, pain, music, sexual attraction...

Coaches will find chapter 6, "Brain Lock Unlocked", particularly relevant to their work - it explains how therapists are helping people take advantage of their brain's plasticity to stop their worries, obsessions, compulsions and bad habits.

Finally, hard scientific proof of "the power of positive thinking". Our immaterial thoughts, whether positive or negative, really do affect the physical and chemical structure of the brain. So think happy thoughts!

And a bonus tip: If you like this book, you'll probably also enjoy "Molecules of Emotion", the classic text by Dr Candace Pert.

© Kay Ross, January 2009

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This book review was first published in the February 2009 e-newsletter of the Hong Kong International Coaching Community.

Kay Ross is a Hong Kong-based marketing consultant & coach, editor and copywriter. She devises creative marketing strategies and crafts compelling English-language marketing communications messages that translate into bottom-line results for her clients. When she was 11 years old, her ambition was to become a neurosurgeon. To learn more about Kay, visit www.kayross.com.

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