The Brain that Changes Itself

I have just started reading The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, and if you want a positive read into neuroplasticity and its effects all throughout life after brain injury, I recommend it. This is not a pseudo-science self-help book, it talks about the brain being able to re-establish connections, and how it does it. The physio we know about is only the surface of what the brain can do to heal, and survive. Our health system has a long way to go before it grasps on what is achievable for us as stroke survivors. And the best thing is that the book is positive, and provides a good motivational resource to getting better, and even better than better than before in some cases. 


thank you for this rups

I was recommended it by a GP, and it is a refreshing read. Sometimes, I find a lot the literature on stroke recovery to be repetitive, and sometimes not very motivational. 

Thanks so much for mentioning the Norman Doidge book Rups, it's fascinating. He talked about another neuroscientist, Michael Merzenich, who has done amazing work on brain plasticity for years, and has established in clinical trials the value of targeted brain exercises in a range of brain injury and neurological problems, including memory loss and dementia. These go far beyond the advice of doing crosswords or puzzles, and look at the interaction of the auditory system, the speed at which neutrons fire when the brain is challenged with new material, and other actors in brain function. 
 He has a website called which has a range of brain exercises, some free, but a year subscription doesn't  break the bank. There is a good explanation of the science for those who want to know...or just try the exercises. You indicate what sort of problem you are faced with, and the exercises are targeted and change as you progress.They can be quite challenging, but that's the idea! To know that if I apply myself to doing this several hours a week, it can help my brain develop new pathways which could aid my stroke recovery brings hope and purpose to a day, something  that are lacking at the moment. At 82, it's hard to avoid the temptation to just give up and be old- but not yet! I am going to initially subscribe for a month to see how I get on - stroke fatigue (my stroke was 5 months ago) is bad most days, so it will be a challenge. But.....nothing ventured, etc. ?

Thanks Rups! I an currently reading his book ' The brains way of healing' which is well worth a look as well! I have even tried to discuss his work with my doctors who were surprisingly interested albeit with a hint of scepticism. I agree with you that our health system has a long way to go! 

Thanks Poozle, I will have a look at Your stroke was only five months ago, which means repair work is in full swing, and will continue, albeit, a little slower but it won't stop. I find it fascinating, the observations made on the human brain. I recently listened to a podcast featuring Michael Merzenich ( - I think research into plasticity is empowering, I know one size doesn't fit all, but too often stroke survivors hit a plateau, and then stop looking for solutions to get even better. Please don't give up at 82, my father is 83, and is nowhere near giving up, in fact, most of my family suspect he might outlive us all! I think it was Michael Merzenich who said that certain habits compound issues, I'm paraphrasing here, but he was saying that if someone has a fear of falling, they tend to look down at the ground, this creates further problems, they tend to step more cautiously, this causes further problems. Basically, his idea is to continue training the brain to overcome these things in order to keep it virile because we can. I guess it's only our enthusiasm, and our will to adapt to new ideas that things begin to change.

Hello Alis, thanks I will put 'The brains way of healing' on my list, and read it after 'Stronger After Stroke'. 'The Brain that Changes Itself' was recommended to me out of the blue by a GP who follows me on Twitter. Michael Merzenich mentions this phenomena on a podcast, because the idea of plasticity is relatively new, as in the last sixty years new (actually it does in fact go back to the 1800s), many doctors are still trained by 'old school' academics and senior practitioners who still stick to the old theories. There's a lot of internal politics in medicine, I am starting to learn that. When I was in hospital, plasticity was mentioned very briefly, but the two physio sessions I received were 'gaze stabilisation' exercises. Gaze stabilisation is useful for vertigo, but I didn't have vertigo! It took me months to isolate and identify my symptoms on my own, only now after thorough research have I been able to concentrate on ocularmotor dysfunction and proprioceptive impairment with appropriate exercises, and these exercises are making a huge improvement but it has taken a year to uncover all this. I have used many of these contemporary concepts to quicken recovery, and to ensure I have little residual symptoms, but also to keep on improving in life as could someone who had not had a stroke. I think once you know the approach, it is much easier to tackle the problems head on, rather than wait for things to fix themselves over time. We certainly need more comprehensively educated post-stroke care, some people aren't even told what kind of stroke they've had. How on earth are they meant to focus on specific rehabilitation for their specific problems? 

Hope you enjoy the book. I thought it fascinating. 

1 Like

This looks good, have just ordered a copy. I hve just finished 'Down the Rabbit Hole' which helped me understand a bit more about the brain

Down the Rabbit Hole looks interesting, will mark that one down too. The better informed we are, the more choices we have.

Thanks for the suggestion.  I just ordered a copy. yes smiley

1 Like

Hi Rups, I find it all very interesting and have told my doctors that, while they may want me to adopt a wait and see approach when comes to my homonymous hemianopia, I will research a more alterntive route in the meantime. Surprisingly while this was not 'endoresed' it was met with interest and a request to keep them posted! My ophthalmologist even asked me for the titles of Norman Doigts book. I had started to see a Feldenkrais therapist who was working with me on excercises specific to my vision field loss but unfortunately I found them too triggering of my fatigue. I was having an hour session each week and it was taking me 2 days of downtime to recover. I will definitely go back to it once I can manage the fatigue side of things as I did have the feeling it was having an effect. 

Thanks for your encouraging reply Rups. I hadn't heard that interview with Michael Merzenich so it's top of my list! I have been so fit and healthy and active until this stroke that I am having to assess several things with one blow. But life isn't static and you have to choose whether to take it on positively or chuck the towel in. And I don't like chucking towels about ?. Too many interesting things to learn about! All the best.......

Another very good one is My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, an American neurologist who had a major haemorrhage stroke, but was able to make observations on herself as it progressed. Very readable. Again not in the “self help” genre but gives some hope for us all. She also did a TED talk on the same theme, worth a look.



Thanks Tony, I will have a look for this one too. Sounds interesting.