Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Splain' the Brain: 4 Brain Books That Rawk.

I've read a ton on the brain. I read articles and blogs and books. Some of what I've read are downright unreadable; either poorly written or so detailed, science-y and specific that there were no real practical applications. And that's what I'm looking for: practical applications. I either want the book to be a tool I can use to help stroke survivors, or a tool I can use for myself.

Hey, my brain can use some work as well...

There are four books I've read recently and while all of them have we redeeming qualities, I like some more than others.

The first book of my list is Jeffrey Schwartz's book
"The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force".

The whole book is really good, but the part on stroke recovery is brilliant. This book provides the historical back story for stroke recovery. Every stroke survivor and clinician working with stroke survivors, should read these chapters. It makes you feel in your bones what recovery is made of.


The second book I like is called
Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are, by Joseph E. LeDoux. This book is a relatively easy read and helps one understand the importance-- not of neurons (nerve cells)-- but of the connections between neurons (synapses). It's a hopeful book because these connections have a vast potential for growth. Generally speaking the number of neurons will not grow, but the connections between neurons can. Developing new connections is the essence of stroke recovery, and learning. Brilliant.


The third book that's interesting is The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, by Norman Doidge. It's a fine book, but I find much of the historical perspective of stroke recovery the same as Jeffrey Schwartz's book, which was written three or four years earlier.


The book I'm reading right now is called The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee. The jury is still out on this one. It has some interesting tidbits scattered throughout. Not much of it is specifically related to stroke recovery, but it does have interesting comments about mirror therapy and mental imagery in stroke recovery.

I'm a big fan of mirror therapy as a potential aid. There is a whole chapter on it in my book. In terms of mental practice or imagery, our lab has done ( and continues to do) many studies in this area. If you're interested in our work on mental practice as related to stroke recovery, here is an example.

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