The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

Summary

  1. Doidge discusses neuroplasticity extensively – the ability of the brain to rewire itself. This is both a good and a bad thing as we can change our brains in case it gets injured but we are also more susceptible outside influences
Key Takeaways
  1. Discusses a lady who completely lost her balance and through the use of a special tool was able to recalibrate her balance and rewire the brain (pons tongue stimulator – seems to have remarkable positive effects for a broad array of diseases, handicaps, disabilities, etc.)
  2. Shown that people who lose one sense can train others to make up for it this is also known as sensory substitution
  3. People are able to survive in an ever changing world due to our brain’s ability to adapt to anything we throw at it
  4. Pushing the brain by trying new things and learning increases connections and the potential of the brain
  5. There is a critical period in an animals youth where certain stimuli are needed to spur the brain to grow and develop. If the brain is denied stimulation in this time frame, this aspect will not develop
  6. Unlearning often so much more difficult than learning because it occupies a certain part of the brain which can be difficult to rewire – early education and good habits so important 
  7. What you learn can only be as clear as the original message – don’t multitask or split your attention if you truly want to learn something 
  8. White noise can have adverse effects of infants are exposed at a young age as it causes many neurons to fire simultaneously – what is often found in autism
  9. Learning is effortless at a young age because the nucleus basalis is always on. Scientists have found that it can be reopened using an electrode – opening the door to effortless learning in adults
  10. Acetylcholine helps the brain be focused and remember better
  11. Any activity or task which requires your full attention is healthy for your brain’s long term health 
  12. Sexuality is extremely plastic as well and what we experience early on has big effects on us and what were attracted to through life
  13. Pornography desensitizes us and makes actual sexual encounters less pleasant over time
  14. Being in love is big a satisfying feeling not only because it helps us feel great, but also because it makes it harder to feel bad
  15. Oxytocin is a neuromodulator which is used to bond people and animals – between young and their parents as well as between lovers
  16. Even victims of severe strokes can train themselves back to self sufficiency. Training should be as realistic as possible and done in intermittent spurts
  17. Mental practice is not as effective as the real thing but it still has amazing benefits. Actual exercise lead to 30% increases in strength but deeply visualizing the same exercises lead to a 22% increase!
  18. Experts tend to use long term rather than short term memory to solve problems. They don’t memorize facts as much as novices do, rather they remember key steps which can be broadly applied 
  19. Experience and culture both change the brain, it’s mapping and how it functions
  20. Easterners and westerners tend to perceive things differently – easterners see things more holistically whereas westerners perceive things more in isolation
  21. Due to the brain’s amazing ability to respond to new stimuli and training, few limits can be seen in human improvement
What I got out of it
  1. Fascinating book on the brain, how it functions, its amazing potential and where our future might lie

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