The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force Info

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A groundbreaking work of science that confirms, for
the first time, the independent existence of the mind–and
demonstrates the possibilities for human control over the workings of
the brain.

Conventional science has long held the position that
'the mind' is merely an illusion, a side effect of electrochemical
activity in the physical brain. Now in paperback, Dr Jeffrey Schwartz
and Sharon Begley's groundbreaking work, The Mind and the Brain,
argues exactly the opposite: that the mind has a life of its own.Dr
Schwartz, a leading researcher in brain dysfunctions, and Wall Street
Journal science columnist Sharon Begley demonstrate that the human mind
is an independent entity that can shape and control the functioning of
the physical brain. Their work has its basis in our emerging
understanding of adult neuroplasticity–the brain's ability to
be rewired not just in childhood, but throughout life, a trait only
recently established by neuroscientists.

Through decades of work
treating patients with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD),
Schwartz made an extraordinary finding: while following the therapy he
developed, his patients were effecting significant and lasting changes
in their own neural pathways. It was a scientific first: by actively
focusing their attention away from negative behaviors and toward more
positive ones, Schwartz's patients were using their minds to reshape
their brains–and discovering a thrilling new dimension to the
concept of neuroplasticity.

The Mind and the Brain
follows Schwartz as he investigates this newly discovered power


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Reviews for The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force:

1

Dec 01, 2008

"Sitting somewhere between purely mental events and purely sensory ones is this vast sea of life called experience." (p. 250) And somewhere between the worst of bad popular science writing and New Age pseudo-philosophy lies this horrendous mess. Where to begin?

I have so many problems with this book that it's a challenge to put them together in a meaningful and organized fashion. Here's my best shot.

First, this book is supposedly intended to be a science book. However, there is not a single "Sitting somewhere between purely mental events and purely sensory ones is this vast sea of life called experience." (p. 250) And somewhere between the worst of bad popular science writing and New Age pseudo-philosophy lies this horrendous mess. Where to begin?

I have so many problems with this book that it's a challenge to put them together in a meaningful and organized fashion. Here's my best shot.

First, this book is supposedly intended to be a science book. However, there is not a single footnote in the entire text. There are notes at the end of the book (endnotes), but they are detached from the exact references, only listing the page to which they refer. What is the sense of this? I've never seen a book that does that before. It makes no sense. It's inefficient, inexact, and serves no one.

Second, the book varies between third person and first person descriptions. Furthermore, the authors use the first person singular, despite the fact that both Schwartz and Begley are clearly listed as coauthors. Poor taste. I assume Schwartz is the lead author because he references his own work on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and because Begley's book Train Your Mind Change Your Brain has a different tone and style. Scientific writers, in good taste, generally refrain from the first person when writing, unless they can pull it off effectively. Schwartz (and Begley) cannot and should not try.

Third, the topics and the style of writing are all over the map. Schwartz can't seem to make up his mind what should be the subject of his book, or for that matter even what kind of book he's trying to write. He wanders between trivial anecdotes of his attempts to be recognized by the medical community, blunt criticisms of the dogmatic medical community marginalizing important research on neuroplasticity, long winded explanations of research and legal battles over the Silver Spring monkeys, philosophical perspectives on free will and determinism haphazardly tossed in (without being clearly or meaningfully applied to the issues of the book), and, of course, some quantum physics for good measure. You would think it would be rather difficult to clearly and succinctly tie all these topics together under a single heading; apparently it is, and the task was well beyond the skills of the author. Schwartz doesn't commit himself to exploring any of these issues, and settles for literary name-dropping.


Finally, the cover. The title is The Mind & The Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. The name sounds impressive, and the cover art looks like a medical illustration of the brain (the scalp with the skin peeled back. This looks like an illustration of the meninges, not the "brain" proper (not cortex or brain stem), which makes an odd choice for the cover art. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., and Sharon Begley are listed as the authors; however, the book is written mostly in the first person singular ("I") not the first person plural ("we"), which leads me to believe that Schwartz wrote this mostly himself and Begley was tacked on. What exactly was Begley's contribution? Maybe not important, but certainly not clear and certainly poor taste; the first person is generally discouraged from scientific writing, and this book is fine example why. George Gilder provides a one-line review for the cover: "Stirring... a daring rescue of the concept of the free human will." This is, of course, to attract attention to the book as an argument for the concept of free will, written in casual pop science language. I bring up all these points because together they all suggest that this is a book aimed at a general audience without much familiarity with neuropsychology or philosophy, but who are concerned and probably anxious about their own freedom and inner conflicts. Basically it's good marketing. ...more
1

Jul 03, 2010

Badly written, much like my original review. I'm changing it b/c the comments reflect that I did not explain myself well AT ALL. Firstly, I like these authors usually. Secondly, I do believe strongly in neuroplasticity. I work in TBI (traumatic brain injury) and trauma - if I didn't believe in neuroplasticity, I'd have to change fields. Somehow I didn't make that clear. My issue with this book is not that I don't somehow "believe in" neuroplasticity, but that I do not think the authors were very Badly written, much like my original review. I'm changing it b/c the comments reflect that I did not explain myself well AT ALL. Firstly, I like these authors usually. Secondly, I do believe strongly in neuroplasticity. I work in TBI (traumatic brain injury) and trauma - if I didn't believe in neuroplasticity, I'd have to change fields. Somehow I didn't make that clear. My issue with this book is not that I don't somehow "believe in" neuroplasticity, but that I do not think the authors were very clear nor did they do anyone a service by adding a bunch of stuff about "mental force" in the early 2000s when they wrote/published this. Everything below is exactly as it was originally (in 2010, when I joined GR, years after reading this book, all of which is out of date now...) except that I've added some underlining, italics, bold & the note at the end. I have tried to pretend it's 2002 as I'm adding these things until the note:

To the author "mental force" (some of you may have heard this same idea called "soul" or "mind" or "free will" or countless other things people create when we haven't figured it out just yet) is bigger than the possibilities created by the plasticity of our wonderful brains.

The authors ignore the very plasticity they mention in their title in favor of their term "mental force."

There is power in exercising our brains. When we think -- positively or negatively, when we act purposefully or automatically, when we USE our brains, they do -- in fact -- change (add: This is called neuroplasticity or just plain old plasticity.) Ask anyone who has ever had any sort of brain injury. Do it repeatedly and you can even learn things! You can feel differently by thinking differently -- ask your favorite cognitive psychologist. This is nothing new. It's wrapped up in a bow w/ some added nonsense filling the package, but [that added nonsense] is just plain wrong. I believe that the actual process works, but I don't believe for a minute that the authors explain why.

NB: I read this book when it was released in the early aughts. It is now 2020, and maybe I should just delete this entire review and the book from my shelves, but I'd rather note that this book is out of date, was written early in the hoopla of neuroplasticity long before now, and that reading it is probably not of value to anyone who wants to be up-to-date or even well-informed on neuroplasticity. Always check the dates on science books - especially popular ones, because the books that are cutting edge right now are not going to be cutting edge (and may be unsupported) in just a few years. ...more
5

Jul 14, 2012

This book is extremely informative in many aspects of the physical and mental processes of the brain and mind. Although Dr. Schwartz emphasized that the intent of his experiments, understandings and knowledge was to understand obsessive-compulsive disorder in the brain, he includes examples of experiments and findings that reach other scopes of psychology and neurology.

Dr. Schwartz devotes a chapter to the basic explanation of the literal topography of the brain itself, touching on different This book is extremely informative in many aspects of the physical and mental processes of the brain and mind. Although Dr. Schwartz emphasized that the intent of his experiments, understandings and knowledge was to understand obsessive-compulsive disorder in the brain, he includes examples of experiments and findings that reach other scopes of psychology and neurology.

Dr. Schwartz devotes a chapter to the basic explanation of the literal topography of the brain itself, touching on different processes of various areas. This was helpful to understand what exactly, can be changed and how it is changed through neuroplasticity. And through neuroplasticity and the power of mental force, the mind, or attention, or awareness can literally CHANGE the physiology of the brain structure itself. In his words, mental force is "directed, willed mental activity can clearly and systematically alter brain function; that the exertion of willful effort generates a physical force that has the power to change how the brain works and even its physical structure."

Meditation is quickly becoming more popular in today's society. In my own life, I have been encouraged to learn 'mindful meditation' to guide me through the stress of life. When Dr. Schwartz touches on the Buddhist 'bare awareness' concept of meditation, I found an increased understanding to how I may learn to acknowledge feelings, sensations, sounds, perceptions, etc without letting them affect me. I observe them as an outsider, one standing on the sidelines looking upon my own thoughts and feelings without engaging in them.

In the chapter Network Remodeling, Dr. Schwartz asks a question that particularly piqued my interest. "How, then, to apply mindfulness to depression?". This is one state to which I fall victim too easily--depression. He explains three ways to address this, but the third option impressed me the most. Speaking of 'mindful experience/being "in this way of thinking about your emotions, you sense feelings, sensations, and thoughts from the perspective of the Impartial Spectator. You regard your thoughts and feelings as passing, ephemeral "mental events" rather than as accurate reflections of reality. Instead of reacting to negative thoughts and feelings as "these are me," you come to regard them as "events in the mind that can be considered and examined". You recognize that thoughts are not facts...but are instead "events that come and go through the mind" pg 248

The chapter on The Quantum Brain was difficult for me to grasp in that it was almost completely quantum physics. I was not particularly proficient at classic physics to say the least. Briefly, he explains that if we utilize only classic physics, or materialism, to define the brain/mind, it comes up short. It basically negates the existence of mind or will altogether. One problem with this, is if we don't actually have a will, then we can't take responsibility for our actions because they are only resulting from the neurological processes of the brain. We can see that this would have grave judicial implications. There is no right and wrong. i.e. I can steal my neighbor's car because my brain made me do it. Again, in the words of Dr. Schwartz "I began lamenting the terrible social consequences of materialism...the moral condition of America...could be laid at the feet of nearly three centuries of materialist ascendance. The reigning belief that the thoughts we think and the choices we make reflect the deterministic workings of neurons and, ultimately subatomic particles seemed to me to have subverted mankind's sense of morality. The view that people are mere machines and that the mind is just another (not particularly special) manifestation of a clockwork physical universe had infiltrated all our thinking whether or not someone knew a synapse from an axon."pg 257-258

Quantum mechanics is based on observation. "Integral to quantum physics is the fundamental role played by the observer in choosing which of the plenitude of possible realities will leave the realm of the possible and become actual"..."there is no 'is' until an observer makes an observation" pg 263

He describes the double-slit experiment and the collapse of the wave function in observation: "Before the observation, the system had a range of possibilities, afterward, it has a single actuality. This is the infamous collapse of the wave function" pg 269

I won't dwell much more on the actual physics explained in this chapter, though Dr. Schwartz does a fabulous job of helping a lay person like me attempt and partially succeed in understanding. My main interest was how all of this physics relates to the mind and brain. His last two chapters are dedicated to free will and to attention. We actually have the will, and ability to experience our own thoughts. These thoughts can be turned into actions, whether it be sensations, reactions to an event, etc. This is completely up to our choices. Before we act, there is a wave of possibilities...we can be angry, we can be hurt, we may cry...if we choose to. We can focus our attention on what we choose to experience. Once we continually choose to think a certain way, it becomes easier and with continual willful attention paid to the chosen thought or experience, the actual physiology of our brain will change.

I have heard people say that I can choose to be happy. Well, this is actually true! Although in isolated instances it can be extremely difficult, overall with practice in choosing happiness it will become almost second-nature.

After reading this book and learning so much more about how the brain and the mind works for me, I will choose to practice mindfulness, I will choose to acknowledge then release the negative thoughts that result in depression, I will choose to be happier. I feel more in control of my life, in myself.

Note: Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz will be visiting my city as a guest speaker at the Surgical-Medical Society Conference in May 2014 and I have been honored with this opportunity to hear his wisdom once again.

...more
3

Dec 06, 2010

Take one good, or even very good book. Stick it in a blender with an awful one and set to puree.

Well, okay, I'm speaking metaphorically here, so don't do that. But that at least gives an idea of what I thought of this one. The sections of the book related to the author's work with OCD sufferers, his descriptions of similar work on those with Tourette's Syndrome and major depression and his basic narrative of discoveries related to the brain and what has come to be believed related to its Take one good, or even very good book. Stick it in a blender with an awful one and set to puree.

Well, okay, I'm speaking metaphorically here, so don't do that. But that at least gives an idea of what I thought of this one. The sections of the book related to the author's work with OCD sufferers, his descriptions of similar work on those with Tourette's Syndrome and major depression and his basic narrative of discoveries related to the brain and what has come to be believed related to its flexibility were all superb. The man knows his stuff, knows lots of people who know their stuff and knows how to communicate it all to a general audience, though I must admit I he did lose me for a time in his section on Quantum Mechanics.

Unfortunately, that ain't all there is here. And that other stuff is a train wreck, mostl flowing from what I can only call a mission of some sort to disprove Materialism, both scientific and philosophical. First, makes no bones about the fact that what he has learned from Swami Dorito Guacamolejam (or whoever) is at least part of the reason behind this, revealing a rather unfortunate bias. Second, there's even a villain of the piece: Behaviorism. Not that I'm any fan of it, but, eh, he ain't Galileo and they ain't the Inquisition, so his over the top stuff here is just silly. And as best I can tell, his conclusions don't follow from his facts: in other words, Materialism is not disproven. Perhaps in need of modification, but not disproven.

I was also more than a tad irritated at his unwillingness to give a straightforward definition of the term "Mind." It is in the title, after all. But while there are lengthy discussions of brain physiology and function, the Mind seems to pop in and out of the book, usually only after some experiment or other is described that appears to debunk the commonly held materialist theory of XYZ. He also switches to the term "Will" for a while, which is either the same as the mind, a part of the mind or something else that falls outside materialist theory and has little or nothing to do with the mind (or brain), it really isn't clear.

...more
5

Dec 26, 2010

Jeffrey Schwartz has written an impassioned argument for the neuroplasticity of the brain, based on his work with OCD patients and his practice of Buddhism. I have enormous admiration for anyone who brings together Eastern and Western ideas with skill and thoughtfulness, as Schwartz has done here, but when the work creates a genuine breakthrough in treating mental illness, then the originator deserves the highest possible praise. Millions of people suffer tragically from OCD, and the Jeffrey Schwartz has written an impassioned argument for the neuroplasticity of the brain, based on his work with OCD patients and his practice of Buddhism. I have enormous admiration for anyone who brings together Eastern and Western ideas with skill and thoughtfulness, as Schwartz has done here, but when the work creates a genuine breakthrough in treating mental illness, then the originator deserves the highest possible praise. Millions of people suffer tragically from OCD, and the desensitization work of behavioral therapists often borders on the cruel -- and it's only partly effective. Drugs have huge limitations and of course side effects. So Schwartz has given humanity a gift by figuring out how to use the Buddhist concept of mindfulness to help people recognize and ultimately reject OCD thoughts, while at the same time making a larger argument about the plasticity of the brain, and the connection between mind and brain. A path-breaking work. ...more
5

Jun 24, 2010

This is an excellent book. I learned how people with severe conditions can sometimes overcome the debilitating effects of stroke, OCD, and so on.

Toward the end of the book, the author describes how quantum mechanics may be a key component to volition and free will. But, I am not completely convinced of the connection with quantum mechanics. I understand how the act of observation of an atom can resolve its (previously probabilistic) state. And the analogy between "observation" and "attention" is This is an excellent book. I learned how people with severe conditions can sometimes overcome the debilitating effects of stroke, OCD, and so on.

Toward the end of the book, the author describes how quantum mechanics may be a key component to volition and free will. But, I am not completely convinced of the connection with quantum mechanics. I understand how the act of observation of an atom can resolve its (previously probabilistic) state. And the analogy between "observation" and "attention" is striking. But doesn't this just beg the question, what is the mechanism for the mind/brain to show attention to something? ...more
1

Apr 07, 2019

Truthfully, I didn't have intention of writing a review of this book but considering there's something that might safely be called a debate between the book's apologists on the one side and its adversaries on the other side, I thought I might as well write the review. What follows, however, is just a simple advantages/disadvantages recapitulation of the book's claims and its internal structure.

Disadvantages

(1) With all due respect to Schwartz's treating of OCD patients and to the patients Truthfully, I didn't have intention of writing a review of this book but considering there's something that might safely be called a debate between the book's apologists on the one side and its adversaries on the other side, I thought I might as well write the review. What follows, however, is just a simple advantages/disadvantages recapitulation of the book's claims and its internal structure.

Disadvantages

(1) With all due respect to Schwartz's treating of OCD patients and to the patients themselves, it's a rather mild mental condition (in terms of its dangerousness to the patient and his environment, and the social impact on the patient) (Seligman et al., 2002), as compared to other mental conditions, such as psychopathy with its instrumental and reactive aggression (Blair, 2006), Autism Spectrum Disorder with its non-understanding of emphatical emotions and severe social apprehension (Baron-Cohen, 1995, 2004, 2013), or schizophrenia with its (plausible) delusions and mental disintegration (Liberman, 2008). The author extrapolates his treatment of the OCD patients and their improvement, and proclaims that the power of attention, and thus the power of mind, reshapes neural circuitry and cortical maps. There are two things fundamentally wrong with his claim. First, it doesn't take the said reshaping (how would it even look like?) to mitigate the OCD symptoms. Through repetitive exercises, the brain can start functioning more adequately (but it doesn't change its internal structure) (Churchland P.S., 1986; Damásio, 1995). Second, extrapolating data (and drawing conclusions from it) is something any scientist should be cautious about due to each mental condition's different causes, epidemiology and management, not to mention healthy population's yet another, individual case.

(2a) Mind/body (mind-brain) dualism is a concept that deserves a very careful scrutiny. If true, that is, if the mind and body were distinct and separable entities, any damage to the brain wouldn't affect the mind (which, needless to say, is non-physical). The reality is quite the opposite. Take these two cases as points of reference and further interest. Famously described (Damásio, 2005; Blair, 2006; Stanovich, 2009; Baron-Cohen, 2011) Phineas Gage, who suffered an accident in which an iron rod punctured through his head and damaged much of his brain's left frontal lobe, exhibited mental changes in his behavior after the accident. Another example is of a man, who, due to growing tumors in his brain, exhibited paedophilic tendencies, which vanished after the surgical removal of the tumors (Eagleman, 2015). If the mind-body dualism was true, such physical conditions wouldn't transcend the non-physical nature of the mind.

(2b) Another case against the proposed dualism derives from a biological instance of human development. Considering that we begin our existence as purely physical entities and since nothing outside of the physical domain is added later on in the course of our development, then, all in all, we must end up being fully developed physical beings.

(2c) Logic (and Occam's razor) dictates that if a phenomenon can be explained by existing referential categories, then adding other categories can be considered superfluous.

(3) Repetitive mentions of quantum physics doesn't make a book more scientific. It's been shown that making references to physics or mathematics (in reality, superficially or needlessly) gives a semblance of scholarship (Sokal and Bricmont, 1999) but the same quantum physics produces arguments against Schwartz's claims: any manifestation of a non-physical mind on the brain would entail the violation of physical laws, such as the conservation of energy, since some external source of energy would be responsible for the interaction between the non-physical and the physical.

(4) The Mind and the Brain doesn't observe established methodological standards for writing a book/an article. That a scientist considers himself a maverick and tries to unravel some mysteries and semi-revelatory truths before our eyes, doesn't mean he doesn't have to follow certain creeds of scientific research, especially taking into account that he draws from and writes about multiple fields of human knowledge, such as psychology, sensu largo neuroscience, philosophy, ethics and so forth. There are, to be perfectly fair to Schwartz, endnotes at the end of the book, but the phrases there only vaguely refer to certain articles/books he draws his assertions from. If I were to be mean, I'd say Schwartz's blunt references are exactly meant to cause confusion and create ambiguity. Insofar as proper references, which are nowhere to be found in the book, psychology books, for instance, follow methodological standards of putting their sources in brackets right behind a sentence they refer to, e.g. (Schwartz, 2002). Other books (legal, for example, which I'm most familiar with) contain footnotes that make a reference to a particular page of a particular book/article. In this regard, Schwartz's standards are unique, to say the least. There's also an oddity of writing in singular form, which, normally, isn't necessarily desirable, but I'll just blame it on Bagley's apparent minute input; that's also why I refer to the book as Schwartz's only (in this, I just follow his steps).

Advantages

(1) There are other books out there. ...more
5

Jun 29, 2016

Wonderfully written by a highly experienced researcher. Revolutionary thoughts on neuroplasticity that are yet to be fully accepted by the scientific community. The wonderful blend of buddhist philosophy with deep knowledge of neuroscience is what has been established here. The pragmatic four step concept with the critical idea of mental force is highly applicable and strongly scientific to overcome habits that one is willing to change.
A beautiful chapter on Free Will and Free Won't that Wonderfully written by a highly experienced researcher. Revolutionary thoughts on neuroplasticity that are yet to be fully accepted by the scientific community. The wonderful blend of buddhist philosophy with deep knowledge of neuroscience is what has been established here. The pragmatic four step concept with the critical idea of mental force is highly applicable and strongly scientific to overcome habits that one is willing to change.
A beautiful chapter on Free Will and Free Won't that presents wonderful ideas that were highly convincing.
His great collaboration with Henry Stapp, the quantum physicist, and their reflections on the ideas of William James is spectacular.
A book I highly recommend. ...more
2

Oct 30, 2012

This book is all over the place. The ideas are very intriguing and worth thinking about, but the execution is very uneven in quality. Some chapters (such as the one on Schwartz' own OCD-research) are to-the-point and interesting, others (like the last few) bring up fascinating ideas, but do not manage to convince me on either their grounds, workings or implications, while yet others are tangential to the subject at best and very distracting (such as the Silver Spring monkeys chapter).
The This book is all over the place. The ideas are very intriguing and worth thinking about, but the execution is very uneven in quality. Some chapters (such as the one on Schwartz' own OCD-research) are to-the-point and interesting, others (like the last few) bring up fascinating ideas, but do not manage to convince me on either their grounds, workings or implications, while yet others are tangential to the subject at best and very distracting (such as the Silver Spring monkeys chapter).
The introduction of quantum mechanics into the neurosciences was cool and has a lot of potential, but the author was not well versed enough in the topic to truly take me in with his arguments. And while I am generally not averse to first-person narration in academic settings, I found it not at all well done in this book. Most of it was either unnecessary or greatly annoying. I think I would have rather read this book in the form of a couple of 30-page, well-edited articles instead of a padded 400-page book. ...more
4

Apr 19, 2016

This book was fascinating and hopeful. I read the author's other book "You are Not Your Brain" and found the tone too cheesy and pop-self-helpish. It also left me with a question about the difference between the mind and the brain. When I found this title, it seemed it would answer my question--and it did.

The tone of this book is much more academic, though still intended for lay people. It wanders through the history of experiments that have led neuroscientists to their current understanding of This book was fascinating and hopeful. I read the author's other book "You are Not Your Brain" and found the tone too cheesy and pop-self-helpish. It also left me with a question about the difference between the mind and the brain. When I found this title, it seemed it would answer my question--and it did.

The tone of this book is much more academic, though still intended for lay people. It wanders through the history of experiments that have led neuroscientists to their current understanding of neuroplasticity. It delves into the philosophical debate over the nature of the brain vs. the mind. It ends up in a discussion of quantum physics and how that creates a scientific basis for there being a mind independent of the brain, capable of acting on the brain.

All of this has implications for treating OCD and other disorders such as depression and anxiety that are for hopeful. ...more
4

Sep 21, 2012

I quite enjoyed this book and its exploration of the relationship between mind, brain and quantum mechanics. It highlights the importance of attention and concentration in, for instance, acquiring a new skill or remapping faulty brain patterns. I would recommend this book as a sequel to "The Brain that Changes Itself"; it is more technical than the former book and delves deeper into brain structure.

I wish that the author had dwelled more on how meditation and buddhism can help in overcoming I quite enjoyed this book and its exploration of the relationship between mind, brain and quantum mechanics. It highlights the importance of attention and concentration in, for instance, acquiring a new skill or remapping faulty brain patterns. I would recommend this book as a sequel to "The Brain that Changes Itself"; it is more technical than the former book and delves deeper into brain structure.

I wish that the author had dwelled more on how meditation and buddhism can help in overcoming mental health issues and how it can help rewire our plastic brains. Though in the beginning it sounded as though it would focus more on meditation, there was only a brief overview of this near the end. At times, I also found the book to be a little long winded and repetitive; the author, obviously trying to revolutionize a field and make his argument as strong as possible, quotes supporting data and findings at great length. As a reader, this can get a little tedious. What I did enjoy was the history the author provides of past scientific discoveries and the worldview of materialism that has dominated science -- until now, that is, when mind-brain discoveries are shifting our understanding of the world.

For anyone interested in the brain, and more particularly in mind-brain issues, this is a great read. ...more
5

Aug 10, 2018

I really enjoyed this book as an additional introduction to neuroplasticity. Throw in some philosophy, quantum physics, and some fascinating history and you have a book that's educational and interesting at the same time.
5

Dec 21, 2008

This book explains the ability of the mind, or the will, to influence the brain. This has application for language learning. We can and do influence the ability of our brains to develop new neural circuits to cope with new languages. Language learning is more a matter of attitude than aptitude, I have always felt. This book supports this view.
4

Oct 11, 2013

Jason Shawartz does an amazing job at walking the reader through what is happening in the brain when we are paying attention and apply focus to something. He details the Neuroscience behind what takes place as we create new habits in how we think and shows what free will really is. Controlling what we choose to think about and focus on. ... Its the proof behind James Allen's classic As a Man Thinketh.
4

Jan 21, 2009

First of all, neuroplasticity is just fun to say. It makes you sound all educated when you drop it in a conversation. But the truth of the matter is that Jeffrey Schwartz is able to explain a complicated subject to the common folk and teach us to utilize the benefits of science. So, where is your mind???? Find that out and you hold the keys to the kingdom. The answer is actually quite simple.
4

Nov 25, 2014

The author develops a 4 part mental therapy to help individuals with Obsessive Compulsive disorder resist their obsessive and compulsive behaviors. His therapy involves being attentive to what you are feeling and then refocusing your behavior on a productive tasks. He believes that one can change the pathways in the brain that facilitate this behavior.

He describes different studies where human and animals have changed behaviors thus demonstrating the neuroplasticity of the brain. This book The author develops a 4 part mental therapy to help individuals with Obsessive Compulsive disorder resist their obsessive and compulsive behaviors. His therapy involves being attentive to what you are feeling and then refocusing your behavior on a productive tasks. He believes that one can change the pathways in the brain that facilitate this behavior.

He describes different studies where human and animals have changed behaviors thus demonstrating the neuroplasticity of the brain. This book offers very interesting reading to those who want to learn about the mind brain connection. ...more
4

Jul 12, 2014

Outstanding! Schwartz while working with OCD patients and developing a therapeutic intervention for them discovered what he calls "self-directed neuroplasticity" (mental force). He works with the physicist Henry Stapp to establish the mechanics of self-directed neuroplasticity in quantum physics and connects this with the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.In all of this, he makes a case for the human mind and human will having impact on the human brain: in other words, the mind can change the Outstanding! Schwartz while working with OCD patients and developing a therapeutic intervention for them discovered what he calls "self-directed neuroplasticity" (mental force). He works with the physicist Henry Stapp to establish the mechanics of self-directed neuroplasticity in quantum physics and connects this with the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.In all of this, he makes a case for the human mind and human will having impact on the human brain: in other words, the mind can change the brain. ...more
4

Aug 22, 2015

Probably more like 3.5 stars but I'd give this book the benefit of the doubt. A seemingly 'easy' philosophical issue: is there a duality between mind and brain doesn't seem so simple to neuroscientist. Do mental forces affect the brain by altering wave functions causing us to act differently? The authors exhaustively explore this and other issues as it pertains to amputees, individuals with brain traumas as well as OCD patients. There also is a rather interesting chapter on the infamous Probably more like 3.5 stars but I'd give this book the benefit of the doubt. A seemingly 'easy' philosophical issue: is there a duality between mind and brain doesn't seem so simple to neuroscientist. Do mental forces affect the brain by altering wave functions causing us to act differently? The authors exhaustively explore this and other issues as it pertains to amputees, individuals with brain traumas as well as OCD patients. There also is a rather interesting chapter on the infamous (notorious) Silver Spring monkey experiments conducted in the 1980's and what was hoping to be accomplished. A bit erudite at times but a rather interesting introduction to the field of neuroplasticity. ...more
5

Apr 14, 2014

At first, I was like:



And then I got to the second half of the book and I was like:



Because QUANTUM PHYSICS IS WEIRD, Y'ALL.

And then I ended up with a little bit of this:



So, yes. Super interesting read if you'd like to understand why and how attention or the "mental force" of your mind can actually change the brain's structure.
2

Jun 17, 2015

a really weirdly written book. on the one hand it tries so hard to present itself as a serious scientific work, but the New Agey zealous and anecdotal tone doesn't really help in taking it seriously. also, it could have really used some editing, I mean I UNDERSTOOD YOUR ACHIEVEMENT IN OCD THERAPY THE FIRST TIME YOU EXPLAINED IT, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO REPEAT IT ON EVERY SECOND PAGE OF THE DAMN BOOK. still, the quantum mechanics introduction is alright, as well as the summary of different schools of a really weirdly written book. on the one hand it tries so hard to present itself as a serious scientific work, but the New Agey zealous and anecdotal tone doesn't really help in taking it seriously. also, it could have really used some editing, I mean I UNDERSTOOD YOUR ACHIEVEMENT IN OCD THERAPY THE FIRST TIME YOU EXPLAINED IT, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO REPEAT IT ON EVERY SECOND PAGE OF THE DAMN BOOK. still, the quantum mechanics introduction is alright, as well as the summary of different schools of thought on the mind/brain problem, and I'll always cherish argumented attempts at salvaging the concept of free will. ...more
5

Jan 26, 2017

The Mind and The Brain is a book that discusses how those two are separate. It talks how The Mind is more then chemical reactions in The Brain, and how the science grew to the the understanding of this.
Neuroplasticity is defined as an ability of neurons to create new links between nerves, which can happen with the use of mental force. Author places a substantial importance on attention, for without it, our successes would be much smaller.
Dr. Schwartz talks about his technique for treating people The Mind and The Brain is a book that discusses how those two are separate. It talks how The Mind is more then chemical reactions in The Brain, and how the science grew to the the understanding of this.
Neuroplasticity is defined as an ability of neurons to create new links between nerves, which can happen with the use of mental force. Author places a substantial importance on attention, for without it, our successes would be much smaller.
Dr. Schwartz talks about his technique for treating people with OCD, and how similar techniques, developed by other like-minded people, turned up to have a great track record in treating people that suffered a stroke, or people with dyslexia, or depression.
More than talking about those techniques, Schwartz talks about how people got to those ideas, he takes us on a ride through the history of neuroscientific science, it's scientific research, and introduces us to quantum physics. ...more
5

Aug 11, 2012

If you would like to know more about the human brain, I highly recommend this book. I read it a number of years ago after hearing the author interviewed and I have remembered it ever since. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD, is a research psychiatrist at UCLA. His descriptions of how the brain is formed will astound you! The stories of how nerves are reclaimed and reused (in the event of a limb amputation, for example) are amazing. Did you know that violinists have a much larger portion of their brain If you would like to know more about the human brain, I highly recommend this book. I read it a number of years ago after hearing the author interviewed and I have remembered it ever since. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD, is a research psychiatrist at UCLA. His descriptions of how the brain is formed will astound you! The stories of how nerves are reclaimed and reused (in the event of a limb amputation, for example) are amazing. Did you know that violinists have a much larger portion of their brain devoted to their fingers? Much of the book is based upon experiments using PET (positron emission tomography) which allows the researchers to see what is occurring chemically in the brain at the same time that the patient is describing it. Ironically, Schwartz himself believes that there is much more to the conscious mind than simply the physical wiring. He uses the Buddhist notion of "mindfulness" in explaining what seems to be there and his interpretation I found pretty convincing. He also demonstrates that the idea that our brain is largely complete in youth and rigid after that is untrue and the adaptability of the brain (neuroplasticity) is available throughout our lives. Very hopeful and optimistic though some of the animal experiments may make some people squirm. ...more
5

Dec 15, 2018

It kept my attention, introduced me to new ways of thinking (at least for me) and pulled together disciplines in ways I would not have considered, e.g., psychiatry, philosophy and quantum physics.
He even relates quantum physics to OCD disorders.

I plan to read the book again and am recommending to my more scientifically oriented friends.
4

Mar 21, 2019

Schwartz achieves tremendous success in detailing the concept of neuroplasticity and how the mind can act as a "force" to effect lasting neurological changes. This empowers the reader as much (and probably more) than any self-help book out there, since he extensively backs his ideas with research article after research article. The brain has the capacity to change itself via attention and conscious effort, effectively challenging the reader to, at the risking of sounding trite, be the change she Schwartz achieves tremendous success in detailing the concept of neuroplasticity and how the mind can act as a "force" to effect lasting neurological changes. This empowers the reader as much (and probably more) than any self-help book out there, since he extensively backs his ideas with research article after research article. The brain has the capacity to change itself via attention and conscious effort, effectively challenging the reader to, at the risking of sounding trite, be the change she wishes to see. At the heart of this practice lies the idea of mindfulness. Recognizing one's impulses when they arise as an objective spectator, i.e. exhibiting "bare" attention to one's thoughts and desires and considering them nonjudgmentally, forms the foundation of concerted volition. Only by recognizing one's problematic or intrusive impulses/desires can she then shift her focus and attend to more desirable and productive behaviors.

However, there was perhaps too much buildup for how little payoff was delivered in the closing chapters. Schwartz's foray of the quantum side of the brain, I think, should have been a more essential feature of this book, given his introduction, but it ends up coming out as a hastily scrawled footnote supposedly solidifying his theories of neuroplasticity. He fails to properly reify this soiree with sufficient precision, resulting in a disappointingly effete exploration of a quantum basis for the mind-brain interface that's more wishful and speculative than convincing and rigorous.

Despite the ineffectual quantum sojourn, Schwartz lays his arguments out effortlessly with engaging prose and amusing anecdotes, not to mention elucidating an important moment in the history of animal rights as they pertain to science. Ultimately, after giving it due consideration, I still disagree with his thesis of free will being resurrected by this "new" science of volitional neuroplasticity. I maintain it's just as likely that volitional effort arose via evolutionary processes concomitant with the exquisite development of our prefrontal cortices (and hence the executive functions contained therein) which allowed the brain a means of inspecting and subsequently altering its own behavior as a way of adapting to novel environments and stimuli. ...more
2

May 25, 2018

Wow, where do I begin?

I have mixed feelings with this book, as it started off as one of those which has potential to be a good book, but ended up being the one which I had to stop before the last chapter.

The science what the authors present is questionable, and the counterarguments what they line up are weak. One example:
"...this intervening thing called 'the feeling of mental effort', they might argue, is mere side effect with no casual power of its own. But this sort of reasoning is Wow, where do I begin?

I have mixed feelings with this book, as it started off as one of those which has potential to be a good book, but ended up being the one which I had to stop before the last chapter.

The science what the authors present is questionable, and the counterarguments what they line up are weak. One example:
"...this intervening thing called 'the feeling of mental effort', they might argue, is mere side effect with no casual power of its own. But this sort of reasoning is inconsistent with evolutionary theory. The felt experience of willful effort would have no survival value if it didn't actually do something..."
Well, that is just simple not true. Consciousness just as easily be a spandrel (which has no value but as a consequence of the evolution of different things. Fx.: chin types)

Bringing quantum physics in sounds fancy, but as the Copenhagen Interpretation says, it is just ONE interpretation of the phenomenon. Using it as a solid fact is false.

Supposing that the 'mind' or 'soul' has anything to do with the physical world also sounds a bit spooky and unproven. The OCD example what they discuss in the book just as well can be explained with behaviorism or neuroplasticity induced by other brain areas being active. Why? Because they are told to do so. No mentioning that anyone has ever done it without instruction or anything like that.

I also look at the content with a suspicion eye, as the authors are mentioned as being religious and somehow the conclusion tries to brings back a non material soul into the neuroscience.

On the other hand though, I learnt a lot about OCD and Tourette's and their clinical treatment, and I personally liked the detour to the Silver Spring Monkeys (even though it didn't fit as much as the authors might have thought).

Unfortunately, I had to put down this book with disappointment. ...more

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