Sunday, May 12, 2019

Review: The Brain that Changes Itself

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain ScienceThe Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very interesting book. The examples that Dr Doidge has given are out there in the open domain for all to see. Very inspiring and thought-provoking. I was particularly fascinated by the story of Cheryl Schiltz whose brain learnt to use the tongue for balance instead of her inner ear even after her "prosthetic" device was removed. However, this opens up quite a field of discussions. I mean assuming neuroplasticity to be a valid phenomenon, can a left-handed person become right-handed or vice versa? Can a mental form of constraint-induced therapy switch sexual orientation? Can people on the spectrum learn the "empathy" factor missing in their mental makeup and become neurotypicals? Can sociopaths learn to perceive other people's emotions? I bet these questions are just the tip of the iceberg!

We can obviously see through the numerous examples given that the brain does have a remarkable capacity for rewiring itself and adapting it's structure. But based on this very hypothesis, there's a ton of quackery out there too. What if this opens the floodgates for every quack, con, mystic or guru to shove their s**t down the gullible throats of innocent people under the huge umbrella of "neuroplasticity"?

And even more dangerous; what stops institutions from using techniques outlined by neuroplasticists as some form of mandated conditioning for neurodiverse populations to "turn" them into neurotypicals? The entire spectrum of genetically wired anomalies of the brain can be brought under the ambit of mandatory conditioning for "straightening them out".

A prickly topic indeed. The science may be solid, but I doubt we are mature enough yet to understand it's implications.

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