A few months ago, Josh threw out some rotten squash. Here is our resulting squash garden.
And below is our produce:
Not a bad crop for absolutely no effort on our part. I'm encouraged. Maybe I should convert the whole back yard into a self-sustaining farmette.
Today's song was suggested by one of my faithful commenters (Mudpuddle, you know who you are, sorry if I'm embarrassing you.) It is a superb if not breathtaking in its speed rendition of Antonio Vivaldi's Recorder Concerto RV 443 performed by Maurice Steger and the Capella Gabetta Chamber Orchestra.
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book immediately intrigued me when I read of it in a news article. The premise is that certain beliefs about the brain have been fairly recently proven false.
One that the brain does not change and secondly that brain function is localized and permanent.
Dr. Dodge interviews a number of neurologists, scientists, behavioralists and other professionals and also case studies to prove this case.
The first chapter describes Cheryl, who feels as though she is always falling. Her vestibular system stopped working and she can no longer balance. She is helped by Paul Bach-y-Rita who has developed a machine, that replaces the vestibular system and sends balance signals to her brain. While wearing the machine, it's like a construction hat, Cheryl can stand without falling. Eventually, the effects last for a while after she has taken the "hat" off and it is lasting for longer periods of time.
How is this so? Bach-y-Rita states that this is where brain plasticity comes in. The brain is learning to use other pathways to replace the damaged neuro-pathways.
And this is the basic premise of the book. All the case studies, stroke victims, amputees, learning disabled et al... go through therapy that cause the brain to change itself, to bypass damaged neurotransmitters and create new pathways to perform the lost function.
This has been especially useful with stroke victims who have lost the use of an arm or hand. Through careful therapy that trains the brain to reorganize itself the case studies in this book have regained either most of complete use of previously paralyzed limbs.
Doidge recounts case studies of blind people whose brains have taken over the part of the brain that processes sight and began using it for hearing. He describes a remarkable account of a woman who, after losing her sight, can listen to books on her computer faster than sighted people can comprehend. She can hear up to three books a day.
Conversely, studies have shown that deaf people have more developed peripheral vision than sighted people.
Another interesting study was about "phantom" limbs. This is the sad phenomena that sometimes occurs when someone loses an arm or leg but still feels pain where the arm or limb used to be. This can be so debilitating that people have committed suicide to escape from the never ending pain signals. Dr. Ramachandran developed a therapy system that rewired the "pain map" of the brain to stop the brain from sending signals about limbs that no longer exist.
One of the, I'm sure, more controversial chapters is about sexual attraction and how our early childhood experiences can map our brains to determine what and who attracts us. It offers hope for people who are mired into deviant sexual practices that would like to escape but feel they can't.
One case study is about a man whose mother sexually abused him when he was very young. As an adult he found himself in relationships with women who demanded violent sexual experiences.
Doidge also asserts that our attraction to specific genders can be shaped by and reshaped due to experiences and then later therapeutic experiences that overcome the early experiences. I'm sure some will disagree, but scientists have known for years that what information we put in our brain causes chemical reactions that shape our mind and behavior.
Not just sexually, but in every area of life.
Probably the most fascinating case study was of a young woman who was born with half a brain. This was not discovered for some years because the other hemisphere had taken over the function of the other half.
The most questionable chapter had to do with culture and how it maps our brain. Doidge describes how the language we learn from infancy is going to shape our brains specific ways, but also how culture can shape our brains and even our senses. He uses as an example, a group of nomadic people called the "Sea Gypsies" who live among the tropical islands in the Burmese Archipelago who live most of their lives on boats and in the water harvesting sea cucumbers. Their ability to see underwater is significantly more advanced than any other group of people.
The final appendix details some disturbing information about how totalitarian regimes and the media can shape our brains.
It is common knowledge that what information we process can shape how we think, but Doidge goes farther in saying that the changes happen physically as well and determine how our neurotransmitters travel and map our brain.
It seems obvious that what you fill your mind with is going to help you think on either a more critical level, non-reflective level or even in a way that could be called brainwashed. Looking at some of the mob-like activities occurring on certain college campuses today, I think we can say that certain educators are certainly doing their best to indoctrinate their students rather than give them a quality education.
Doidge describes the education systems in totalitarian countries like North Korea to prove that the same happens there. No big surprise there.
He also described the brainwashing of people who join certain cults, but I thought this had been debunked.
My only question, is what extensive research has been made to prove that the brain map has been changed on a physical level. This was not as clear.
However, if it is changed, the good news, is that it does not have to be permanent.
Finally, Doidge does not simply give case studies but also biographies of the scientists, Doctors and educators as well as describing their research. This alone makes the book enjoyable.
My criticism would be that as informative and interesting as I found this book, I did feel that perhaps the case studies were a little cherry picked. I wondered why he did not mention Ben Carson's work with partial lobotomies for patients suffering chronic seizures or even the famous case of Phineas Gage, the 19th century railroad worker that suffered a pole through his frontal lobe from an explosion. A lot of information about where specific brain functions operate was discovered from Gage's accident and his subsequent behavior.
I think it would be prudent to read more than one book on the topic of brain plasticity.
View all my reviews