Neuroplastic fantastic

The New York Times has a review of a new book on how people have overcome brain damage through neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to re-organise itself.

While this is nothing new, the brain has always had this ability, the discovery is relatively recent and rehabilitation is increasingly designed to take advantage of this process.

The book is called The Brain That Changes Itself and is apparently a series of case studies of how people’s lives have been improved by technology, psychotherapy or behavioural changes.

I suspect much of the excitement about neuroplasticity has been generated by the popularity of ‘cognitive fitness’ games, books and video games, all of which are based on the idea that you can ‘train your brain’ like a muscle.

While there is some truth in this, the effects are much less than many people might expect and certainly, most people don’t completely recover from brain injury.

I wonder if this book, like Peter Kramer’s 1994 book Listening to Prozac (ISBN 0140266712), will showcase the success stories, while most people’s experience will be much more modest.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with presenting the highlights of new and exciting therapies, but I wonder whether it raises some people’s expectations unrealistically.

Anyway, I’ve not read the book yet so I will have to see how it is tackled when I get a copy, and we’re certainly crying out for an accessible treatment of the subject.

Brain Damage, Brain Repair (ISBN 0198523378) is a great academic text, but it’s hardly something you’d take to the beach with you.

Link to NYT review.
Link The Brain That Changes Itself book / author’s website.

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