The Brain that Changes Itself

The Brain that Changes Itself

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We can be anyone or anything we want. There’s seemingly no end to the changes our brain can adjust to…with the right attitude.

3 Points:

  • Our brain can change minute-to-minute. Most of my friends I’ve asked significantly underestimate the amount of change that can happen in 2 weeks.
  • It led me to believe we’re significantly more shaped by our surroundings than previously thought. Culture & language is so important that it can lead to us literally seeing more colours.
  • Animals that have an enriched environment have better brains. I feel humans are probably the same way. (I seem to recall a book that correlated growing up around books to success.)

Favourite Quotes:

For the past twenty minutes we provided her with an articifical sensor. But the real miracle is what is happening now that we have removed the device, and she doesn’t have either an artificial or a natural vestibular apparatus. [Can we ‘kickstart’ latent human senses?] [p.8]
How a sensation enters the brain is not important… [p.15]
As neurons are trained and become more efficient, they can process faster. [p.67]
Paying close attention is essential to long-term plastic change. [p. 68]
…when you train people to distinguish very fast vibrations on their skin (75ms), these same people can detect 75ms sounds as well. [Interesting crossover of senses. Train one to train them all?] [p.74]
By resorting to these compensations [walkers, canes, or crutches] instead of exercising our failing brain systems, we hasten their decline. [p.91]
[In grief]…we must unlearn the idea that the person exists and can still be relied on. [p.118]
Gage’s theory is that in a natural settings, long-term fast walking would take the animal into a new, different environment that would require new learning, sparking what he calls “anticipatory proliferation.” [p.252]
Television watching, one of the signature activities of our culture, correlates with brain problems. [p.307]
Because typical music videos, action sequences, and commercials trigger orienting responses at a rate of one per second, watching them puts us into continuous orienting response with no recovery. [p.310]
Rousseau was also concerned that the balance between our sense and our imagination can be disturbed by the wrong kind of experience. [p.314]

Would I re-read this?

Yeah, especially the stories. For example, I read that there are a group of people (Sea Gypsies) that can control the shape of their eye lenses and pupils in order to see better underwater. [p.289] Something we thought was automatic, but can be consciously controlled.

It also made me significantly more bullish on the ability to ‘enable’ different sensory experiences by using wearables. Primarily the outline of older research by Paul Bach-y-Rita. I’ve started more outlines and theory for wearables at

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My only concern on re-reading would be if the material becomes dated. This book was published in 2007, and I know these fields move fast. However, the term ‘neuroplastic’ is really misunderstood among the people I’ve talked to, so it’s probably worth a read in even 20 years.

What did I implement?

More differing activities. I’m also taking up a new sport that I will be training on with my non-dominant hand. In general, after reading this, I feel empowered to change my own brain. (To a startling degree. I’m thinking about it almost all the time now. How is drinking this cup of coffee changing my brain?)

‘We are the product of our environment’ feels even more important. Activity can shape the structure of my brain, even when I’m not focused on it.

Counter to the last sentence, I am also working to focus with more intensity. There was a portion that said paying close attention is critical to long term plastic change.

It made me curious if horoscopes and the attitude created by them could inspire more neuroplasticity. (E.g. “If you’re an Aquarius, you respond well to life changes.” Does believing this about yourself help your brain change faster compared to someone with a less advantageous sign?) I know nothing about horoscopes, but will be working on this idea over at

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This was such a invigorating read. It encompassed almost all of

, just add some plants and it’s the perfect book. 😉

In Summary...

Solid Robert Green-esq book updating us about how the brain changes itself. Worth a read to change some long-standing misconceptions about the word neuroplasticity.