Updated: May 5
Is your brain firing on all cylinders?
Ever wish your brain could be sharper, more on target? Do you feel trapped by mental fatigue or sluggishness? Know anyone who copes with learning or attention challenges or has difficulty processing sensory information? Know what these symptoms have in common with conditions as varied as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, autism, disability due to stroke or other traumatic brain injury, chronic fatigue and mood disorders?
They can all be linked to traffic jams, road blocks and outages on the brain's super highway of neural connections. But the great news is that these conditions may also be improved (in many cases, quite radically) by clearing out those road blocks and redirecting traffic on the cranial thoroughfare. And the best thing is that this clearing can be done with therapies - such as sound and music - that are holistic, non-invasive and completely complementary with the typical interventions used by Western medicine.
So says Dr. Norman Doidge in his best-selling new book, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. I got this book when I learned that an entire chapter is devoted to the sound-based modalities I use for treating both children and adults who suffer from ADD, ADHD, sensory processing disorders and learning disabilities. What surprised me is how enthralled I was as I devoured the stories of incredible recoveries in this illuminating book, all attributable to different expressions of energy-based medicine.
Doidge explains neuroplasticity as the brain's ability "to change its structure and function in response to activity and mental experience," which includes our sensory experience. Our senses, such as vision and hearing, he explains, "involve taking energy, patterns of information, from the external environment and translating them into patterns of electrical energy which is the lingua francaof the brain." By learning to speak the brain's language, we can communicate with it and, as this books demonstrates, it responds eloquently!
Doidge describes amazing recoveries from what most of us would think of as catastrophic conditions, often by afflicted individuals stumbling upon - through sheer determination and resourcefulness - practices that inadvertently triggered the brain to rewire itself, creating new "brain maps" to regain lost functionality. And what's even more fascinating, he goes on to document the intersection of these discoveries with those of scientists and reseachers on the cutting-edge of this new brain science.
Neuroplasticity, the abilility of the brain to respond to its surroundings, is a relatively new concept in a scientific and medical milieu dominated for the last 400 years by the notion that the brain is a computing machine that, once damaged, can only be fixed by surgical or pharmaceutical means. What science is discovering now is that the brain is a living organism that can - and will - repair itself given the right stimulation.
The stimulation prompting these startling recoveries are kinetic, tactile, auditory and visual - in other words, sensory - and achieved through means of sound, light, music, electrical impulses, conscious movement, mental awareness and visualization. Through various combinations of these methods, Doidges shows how a man cured himself of blindness, a patient with advanced Parkinsonism re-learned how to walk (and climb mountains), victims of traumatic brain injury were able to regain their balance, a woman suffering from severe cognitive and motor dysfunction due to progressive MS was able to resume normal activities without her wheelchair, and a boy with autistic symptoms rose to the top of his class both academically and socially and became "a competitive swimmer, a soccer and cricket player, and gold medalist in karate."
Sound like miracles? Indeed they are, but the true miracle is our own brain - that has the power to rebuild and reform itself and to relearn how to communicate effectively with the body - as long as we make the request in language it can understand. The other miracle to be observed is the will, determination, courage and resourcefulness of the human spirit exhibited by the patients and the doctors, clinicians, researchers, engineers and scientists upon whom Doidge bestows the honorable title of "Neuroplastician."
I am not often moved to write a book review, but this book is an exception. What moves me to write is HOPE. Hope for my friend growing old before his time from the ravages of Parkinsonism, for my cousin's husband whose boundless enthusiasm and energy is being curtailed by the relentless pain of rheumatoid arthritis, for my sister-in-law in Australia whose artist's hands have been crippled by the unpredictable encroachment of scleroderma. Hope also for the many clients I treat with sound and music who are experiencing more mental clarity, more energy, concentration, focus, and ease of movement, and relief from stress, pain, fatigue, confusion, depression and anxiety. I hope you will read this book. And I hope that it will give you - and those you love - hope.
“A tour de force. In one of the most riveting books on the human brain and its mystery powers ever written, Doidge addresses the role of alternative medical therapies to reset and re-sync the dynamic patterns of ‘energy’ in our brain, with the ability to restore relatively normal health to those whose fate seems hopeless.… These are people that traditional medicine all but abandoned as hopeless, untreatable. But they were rescued….It’s possible to start anywhere in the book and be mesmerized.” ~ Huffington Post
Valerie Carpenter is a Certified Provider of the Focus™ Home Listening Program from Integrated Listening Systems (iLs), a neuroplastic intervention that uses specially treated music to improve attention, learning, sensory processing, lethargy, anxiety and depression.