The Brain That Changes Itself.
I’m kind of obsessed with brains. Part of it comes from having a brain that was wired by chimps, and understanding my particular grab-bag of disorders leads to a lot of discovery about how the damn thing is SUPPOSED to work. The other part of it is that brains are awesome.
My only problem is that when I read about the brain, or think about it a lot, and I realize that I’m using my brain to think about my brain… it’s like ice-cream headache. I have to just stop for a minute.
The best thing I can say about this book is that it’s very readable. It goes fast and it covers a fair amount of material without trying to say everything that there is to say about neurology. (And frankly, while what we know about the brain is impressive, what’s even more astounding is how much we have NO IDEA about what is going on in there.) It’s a good overview of neuroplasticity, which is exactly what it’s trying to be.
However, my complaint is that it feels a little “Chicken Soup For the Brain.” I’m as excited as the next person that current research might help rehabilitation in brain injury, but I think that presenting outlying cases as the “hope of the future” is as disingenuous as using total fluke miracle survivors of cancer to say that eating asparagus cures tumors or whatever. While I understand giving hope to victims of stroke or other brain injury, I can also just hear the relatives and friends of people who have traumatic brain injury calling them up and saying “If you just bought these CDs, you would be all better! I read about it in a book!” It’s like reading something on WebMd and then telling your doctor that you’re absolutely sure that you have it. I feel like there wasn’t enough emphasis in the case histories that the methodology being used is still HIGHLY EXPERIMENTAL and not available everywhere yet, lest people start calling their doctors demanding to try the program they read about in that book where that guy got a pole stuck in his eye and then started doing multi-variable calculus. (Note: I made that up.)
I’m not against the stories as illustration of the power of the brain to heal and change, what I’m against is presenting this as solid within-reach fact when the treatments aren’t readily available everywhere and the methodology is still being worked out. Talk about it all you want, but throw a little caveat emptor in there as the way it stands now, it reads like an informercial for brain rehab. Not that that’s an entirely bad thing.