Neuroplasticity – Books to Read

Recommended Books on Neuroplasticity:

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science – by Norman Doidge

This book is a terrific introduction to, and overview of, neuroplasticity. Each chapter addresses a different aspect of how neuroplasticity can be applied, and most focus on a particular individual’s recovery story or a researcher or clinician’s journey of discovery or perseverance. Examples of chapter topics include the vestibular system, pain, stroke, OCD, depression, and learning disabilities. If you want just one book that gives an overview of what neuroplasticity means and how it can be applied in diverse ways, this is the one.

The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force – by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley

Here, Schwartz describes how he teaches his OCD patients the practice of mindful awareness, which he describes as the foundation of Theravada Buddhism. The result is self-directed neuroplasticity – wilful effort or volition that can alter brain chemistry and function. The case studies given here indicate that the treatment is highly successful. But I mustn’t give the impression that this book is all about OCD – that’s only a part of the story. The author then goes on to give a detailed biological account, witty and wholly accessible to the non-biologist, of brain function and especially of how attitude of mind – will or volition – influences the brain. This is very reminiscent of Schopenhauer’s philosophy of Will…

The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity – by Norman Doidge

This book focuses specifically on treatments and recovery approaches for an array of health issues using an understanding of neuroplasticity. There are approaches you have probably heard of (Feldenkrais, exercise, visualization) and approaches you may not have heard of before (or may have doubted their scientific validity) such as cold lasers, sound therapy, and electrical stimulation. Again, the recovery stories are amazing, inspiring, and instructive. Disorders addressed include traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, learning disabilities and dyslexia, disorders arising from being born premature, skin disorders, etc. The information in this book has inspired more than one person to search out a practitioner for a new approach to healing. Very highly recommended.

The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life – by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

I highly recommend this book for people who want to read the personal experience of someone going on a plasticity healing journey. The author is a medical journalist who also had numerous serious health conditions. The writing is clear, compelling, and accessible — a combination of memoir and science presented in an easy-to-understand way. This book also presents — in an objective, yet compassionate way — compelling evidence for how adverse childhood experiences affect adult health (and how these effects can be reversed). Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture are discussed in depth. If you’re looking for a book that tells someone’s personal recovery from illness using neuroplasticity, this is the one.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

by Robert Sapolsky

The expanse of Sapolsky’s book cuts across neuroscience, behavioral science, psychology, sociology and a dozen more disciplines to say more about the human condition than any other single book I’ve come across in recent memory (it feels like much more than a “single” book). If you’ve watched his lectures on YouTube, you already know Sapolsky is a fantastic communicator (and if you haven’t, I recommend you do as a sampling before diving in). This is his magnum opus. It’s a hefty read, but engaging all the way through, and it will change how you think.

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence – by Rick Hanson, PhD

This is a wonderful book both for people new to neuroplasticity and for those already familiar with neuroplasticity therapies who are looking for additional tools. It’s a wonderful book all around! Hanson’s books are extremely accessible and understandable no matter your familiarity with the concepts. He describes a technique for increasing your well-being which is very easy to use and implement, and he does a great job of explaining why and how it works. If you want a very easy, adaptable, non-time-consuming technique for being happier, this is the book for you.

Train your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves – by Sharon Begley

Begley is a science writer who was one of the invitees to a conference on neuroplasticity organized by the Dalai Lama and held at his home in exile. Invited to the conference were a few, select Buddhist monks and a few, select Western scientists. This was one of the Dalai Lama’s annual neuroscience conventions, organised by the Mind and Life Institute (“Building a scientific understanding of the mind to reduce suffering and promote well-being”). Begley’s book is a fascinating recap of the presentations by the scientists as well as an explanation of why neuroplasticity and Buddhism are so often linked — because an essential practice of Buddhism, meditation, is the spiritual practice of training the mind. The concept of neuroplasticity is central to Buddhism, even though the term and concept is new to Western science. This is a well-written book with an intriguing cast of characters and excellent descriptions of various neuroplastic research studies and findings.

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom – by Rick Hanson, PhD

Hanson’s writing is friendly. An engaging and accessible book combining neuroscience, psychology, and contemplative practice. Provides information about how and why meditation is effective for supporting health. Although a lot of the content in this book may be most obvious to those who have some familiarity with Buddhism, it is easily understood and supportive of all contemplative practices and religions.

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