We have been taught that the brain cannot be healed. Brain “damage” is permanent. Neurological problems such as Parkinsons are incurable. But what if we are wrong?
Norman Doidge is a distinguished scientist, a medical doctor and a psychiatrist. He is also an author. He wrote The Brain That Changes Itself about seven years ago and has now written The Brain’s Way of Healing.
In his latest book, he includes some remarkable stories. Such as a man in severe pain from a bad neck injury. He used visualisation techniques to teach his brain to block out the pain, forcing the “brain areas” that felt pain to “process anything but pain, to weaken his chronic brain circuits”. Over time, this process became second nature and, ultimately, curative.
Or there is John Pepper, a man diagnosed with Parkinsons disease in his 50s. John, aged 77, used trial and error and knowledge of how Parkinsons works to re-educate his body and his mind through consciously re-learning his movements and actions, starting with how to walk. He taught his mind how to think differently. In doing so, he has managed to reverse all the symptoms of Parkinsons that he was experiencing.
Doidge refers to this technique as Neuroplasticity. In simple terms, it starts with the belief that the brain CAN change and heal. Therefore, through training and “interventions” the brain can become “plastic” and produce different, better, results.
We already know that London taxi drivers’ brains are changed by studying routes through London. So why not harness this power to help cure or alleviate problems such as MS or autism. Over a number of years, much to the surprise of his doctors, David Webber used meditation and hand-eye exercises to cure himself of blindness caused by an autoimmune disease called uveitis.
This is a fascinating topics and most people who hear about it are hit with a mixture of awe and disbelief. Doidge himself simply says “You don’t have to believe it but you have to suspend your disbelief and just do it”.
You can read more about neuroplasticity including an interview with Normal Doidge here: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/feb/08/norman-doidge-brain-healing-neuroplasticity-interview.