Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves (Anglais) Broché – 20 novembre 2007
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Can We Change?
Challenging the Dogma of the Hardwired Brain The northern Indian district of Dharamsala is composed of two towns, lower Dharamsala and upper. The mist-veiled peaks of the Dhauladhar (“white ridge”) range hug the towns like the bolster on a giant’s bed, while the Kangra Valley, described by a British colonial official as “a picture of rural loveliness and repose,” stretches into the distance. Upper Dharamsala is also known as McLeod Ganj. Founded as a hill station in the nineteenth century during the days of British colonial rule, the bustling hamlet (named after Britain’s lieutenant governor of Punjab at the time, David McLeod) is built on a ridge, where hiking the steep dirt path from one guesthouse to another requires the sure-footedness of a goat and astute enough planning that you don’t make the ankle-turning trek after dark and risk tumbling into a ravine.
Cows amble through intersections where street peddlers squat behind cloths piled with vegetables and grains, and taxis play a game of chicken with oncoming traffic, seeing who will lose his manhood first by edging his car out of the single lane of the town’s only real thoroughfare. The road curves past beggars and holy men who wear little but a loincloth and look as if they have not eaten since last week, yet whose many woes are neatly listed on a computer printout that they hopefully thrust at any passerby who slows even half a pace. Barefoot children dart out of nowhere at the sight of a Westerner and plead, “Please, madam, hungry baby, hungry baby,” pointing vaguely toward the open-air stalls that line the road.
From the flagstoned terrace of Chonor House, one of the guesthouses, all of Dharamsala spreads out before you. As soon as the sun is up, the maroon-robed monks are scurrying to prayers and the holy men crouched in back alleys are chanting om mani padme hum (“hail to jewel in the lotus”). Prayer scarves fluttering from boughs carry the Tibetan words May all sentient beings be happy and free from suffering. The prayers are supposed to be carried by the wind, and when you see them, you think, Wherever the wind blows, may those they touch find freedom from their pain.
Although lower Dharamsala is inhabited mostly by Indians, residents of McLeod Ganj are almost all Tibetan (with a sprinkling of Western expatriates and spiritual tourists), refugees who followed Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, into exile. Many of those remaining in Tibet, unable to flee themselves, have their toddlers and even infants smuggled across the border to Dharamsala, where they are cared for and educated at the Tibetan Children’s Village ten minutes above the town. For the parents, the price of ensuring that their children are educated in Tibetan culture and history, thus keeping their nation’s traditions and identity from being erased by the Chinese occupation, is never seeing their sons and daughters again.
McLeod Ganj has been the Dalai Lama’s home in exile and the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile since 1959, when he escaped ahead of Chinese Communist troops, which had invaded Tibet eight years earlier. His compound, just off the main intersection where buses turn around and taxis wait for fares, is protected around the clock by Indian troops toting machine guns. The entrance is a tiny hut whose physical presence is as humble as the guards are thorough. From its anteroom, large enough for only a small sofa, dog-eared publications in a wooden rack, and a small coffee table, you pass through a door into the security room, where you place everything you want to bring in (bags, notebooks, cameras, tape recorders) on the X-ray belt before entering a closet-size booth, curtained at both ends, for the requisite pat-down by Tibetan guards.
Once cleared, you amble up an inclined asphalt path that winds past more Indian security guards draped with submachine guns and lounging in the shade. The sprawling grounds are forested with pines and rhododendrons; ceramic pots spilling purple bougainvillea and saffron marigolds surround the widely spaced buildings. The first structure to your right is a one-story building that houses the Dalai Lama’s audience chamber, also guarded by an Indian soldier with an automatic weapon. Just beyond is the Tibetan library and archives, and farther up the hill, the Dalai Lama’s two-story private compound, where he sleeps, meditates, and takes most of his meals. The large structure to the left is the old palace where the Dalai Lama lived before his current residence was built. Mostly used for ordinations, for the next five days its large main room will be the setting for an extraordinary meeting. Brought together by the Mind and Life Institute in October 2004, leading scholars from both the Buddhist and the Western scientific traditions will grapple with a question that has consumed philosophers and scientists for centuries: does the brain have the ability to change, and what is the power of the mind to change it?
Just a few years before, neuroscientists would not even have been part of this conversation, for textbooks, science courses, and cutting-edge research papers all hewed to the same line, as they had for almost as long as there had been a science of the brain.
No less a personage than William James, the father of experimental psychology in the United States, first introduced the word plasticity to the science of the brain, positing in 1890 that “organic matter, especially nervous tissue, seems endowed with a very extraordinary degree of plasticity.” By that, he meant “a structure weak enough to yield to an influence.” But James was “only” a psychologist, not a neurologist (there was no such thing as a neuroscientist a century ago), and his speculation went nowhere. Much more influential was the view expressed succinctly in 1913 by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the great Spanish neuroanatomist who had won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine seven years earlier. Near the conclusion of his treatise on the nervous system, he declared, “In the adult centers the nerve paths are something fixed, ended and immutable.” His gloomy assessment that the circuits of the living brain are unchanging, its structures and organization almost as static and stationary as a deathly white cadaver brain floating in a vat of formaldehyde, remained the prevailing dogma in neuroscience for almost a century. The textbook wis- dom held that the adult brain is hardwired, fixed in form and function, so that by the time we reach adulthood, we are pretty much stuck with what we have.
Conventional wisdom in neuroscience held that the adult mammalian brain is fixed in two respects: no new neurons are born in it, and the functions of the structures that make it up are immutable, so that if genes and development dictate that this cluster of neurons will process signals from the eye, and this cluster will move the fingers of the right hand, then by god they’ll do that and nothing else come hell or high water. There was good reason why all those extravagantly illustrated brain books show the function, size, and location of the brain’s structures in permanent ink. As late as 1999, neurologists writing in the prestigious journal Science admitted, “We are still taught that the fully mature brain lacks the intrinsic mechanisms needed to replenish neurons and reestablish neuronal networks after acute injury or in response to the insidious loss of neurons seen in neurodegen- erative diseases.”
That is not to say that scientists failed to recognize that the brain must undergo some changes throughout life. After all, since the brain is the organ of behavior and the repository of learning and memory, when we acquire new knowledge or master a new skill or file away the remembrance of things past, the brain changes in some real, physical way to make that happen. Indeed, researchers have known for decades that learning and memory find their physiological expression in the formation of new synapses (points of connection between neurons) and the strengthening of existing ones; in 2000, the wise men of Stockholm even awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the molecular underpinnings of memory.
But the changes underlying learning and memory are of the retail variety—strengthening a few synapses here and there or sprouting a few extra dendrites so neurons can talk to more of their neighbors, like a household getting an extra phone line. Wholesale changes, such as expanding a region that is in charge of a particular mental function or altering the wiring that connects one region to another, were deemed impossible.
Also impossible was for the basic layout of the brain to deviate one iota from the authoritative diagrams in anatomy textbooks: the visual cortex in the back was hardwired to handle the sense of sight, the somatosensory cortex curving along the top of the brain was hardwired to process tactile sensations, the motor cortex was hardwired to devote a precise amount of neural real estate to each muscle, and the auditory cortex was hardwired to field transmissions from the ears. Enshrined from clinical practice to scholarly monographs, this principle held that in contrast to the ability of the developing brain to change in significant ways, the adult brain is fixed, immutable. It has lost the capacity called neuroplasticity, the ability to change its structures and functions in a fundamental way.
To some extent, the dogma was understandable. For one thing, the human brain is made up of so many neurons and so many connections—an estimated 100 billion neurons making a total of some 100 trillion connections—that changing it even slightly looked like a risky undertaking, on a par with opening up the hard drive of a supercomputer and tinkering with a circuit or two on the motherboard. Surely that was not the sort of thing nature would permit and...
Revue de presse
—Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers
“Reading this book is like opening doors in the mind. Sharon Begley brings the reader right to the intersection of scientific and meditative understanding, a place of exciting potential for personal and global transformation. And she does it so skillfully as to seem effortless.”
--Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience
“It is very seldom that a science in its infancy is so skillfully unpacked that it reads like a detective novel. The fact that this science includes collaborative efforts of neuroscientists, psychologists, contemplatives, philosophers, and the full engagement of the genius of the Dalai Lama is not only fascinating, but uplifting and inspiring. This book lets you know that how you pay attention to your experience can change your entire way of being.”
--Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses
“I have meditated for 40 years, and have long felt that the potential of mind training to improve our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being has barely been tapped. Thanks to Sharon Begley’s fascinating book, though, that is about to change. As human beings, we really do have inner powers that can make a world of difference, particularly if our goal is not merely to advance our own agendas, but to cultivate compassion for the benefit of all living beings.”
--John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100, and Diet For a New America
“This is a truly illuminating and eminently readable book on the revolutionary new insights in mind sciences. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in understanding human potential.”
--Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
From the Hardcover edition.
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On peut citer :
- la complexité
- le gigantisme ( autant de cellules dans le cerveau que de planètes dans l'univers )
- la capacité de mémoire
Au dela de ces aspects , on découvre que les études récentes qui traitent de la neuroplasticité ( capacité du cerveau à se "re-configurer" ) démontrent le potentiel énorme du cerveau à évoluer , à s'adapter et ce quelque soit l'âge
On est bien loin du cliché pessimiste : " De toute façon le nombres des neurones décline à partir de 20 ans "
Je vous souhaite une bonne lecture
Au niveau du fond, il faut s'intéresser aux liens entre le boudhisme et les neurosciences, ou vouloir en savoir plus sur les fondements théoriques de certaines approches thérapeutiques actuelles (sophrologie, mindfulness, thérapie cognitivo-comportementales de troisième génération). On en apprend plus sur les neurosciences et la psycho que sur le boudhisme, ce n'est pas un livre de recette pour le développement personnel.
Vincent G. Universitaire
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Those who have worked in fields such as psychology, education, gerontology and various social services will no doubt have observed unexplained and seemingly miraculous events with their clients and students. This book gives answers to their questions. For example, working as an occupational therapist in gerontology a number of years ago, I was stunned when an elderly (and chronic) stroke victim suddenly raised her paralysed arm to bat a balloon in a lighter version of volley ball. There was an "aha" moment when I read the chapter "New neurons for old brains."
This book also gives credence to the Superlearning trend of a decade ago, which met with a great deal of scepticism at the time. There were those, like myself, who used it anyway, purely on instinct, and met with amazing outcomes we could not explain. Anecdotal, of course, but Begley's book gives the following example some weight: While in my sixties, I decided to test out on myself what I had successfully used on the children. I undertook papers at university after forty years break from education, but reducing the study time by two thirds (using the Superlearning protocol.) It worked far better than I had dared hope; the 'grandmother' amongst students a third her age achieving the 90th percentile. (I later helped 'learning disabled' adults achieve the same percentile.) I couldn't say how it worked; just that it did. Now Begley gives scientific reasons why.
I am sure that other readers will find similar places of déja vu in this book and be assured that they can repeat, again and again, what they previously thought was mere chance. Whether you are a parent seeking hope for a dyslexic child, or an older adult who does not want to end up in mental decline like your parents did, there is solid evidence that "we can change what we choose to change."
Intertwined in Begley's reports of neuroplasticity research (cataloguing the unbelievable intransigence of the 'hardwired brain' traditionalists) is the story of an interaction that has developed over the years between the Dalai Llama and a group of enlightened Western scientists. This is a beautiful account of an interrelationship that has, without doubt, benefited the world, albeit with little media attention.
My only surprise is that, although Begley refers repeatedly to the scientists' rejection of mind-brain dualism, she does not answer this with any of the impeccable research available on non-local mind - such as that of William Braud (whose research is documented meticulously in "Distant Mental Influence.") However, Begley's "Train Your Mind, Change YOur Brain" was published in the same week as Lynne McTaggart's "The Intention Experiment," to create what is essentially a dyad in consciousness literature: while McTaggart shows how we can influence our outer world, Begley shows how we can influence our inner world. One way or another, we can be empowered.
If you are interested in the latest developments for treating dyslexia and depression, or in ways to prevent mental deterioration brought about by aging, this is an excellent place to look. This book demonstrates that you can teach old dogs new tricks and that you can combat genetic determinism through cognitive methods, rather than psychotropic drugs (not something that the makers of Prozac want you to know). Although the subjects explored are complex, Ms. Begley does a great job of keeping the book interesting without oversimplification.
I thought the book did a credible job of covering these areas, albeit in a non exciting way (at least for me).
I think the title is misleading. "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" implies the delivery of a actionable personal strategy , or at least the promise of action. Instead, the book delivers a fairly dry synopsis of the current state of science and the relative nature of that science to the Dalai Lama's conception of the interface of science and the ancient Buddhist system relying on insight derived through meditative practice. Those are two distinctly different foci for the potential reader who may be looking for different things based solely on the title.
One implies the book will deliver a personalized strategy. The other implies a review of the science and the amazing potential for all of us.
The book fails to deliver on the first, and is a reasonable guide to the second.
So to my evaluation of the book:
* Be sure you read the description carefully of the contents before you use the "1-click" button. Be sure this is what you want.
* If you want the science, this is a good overview.
* If you want something actually actionable immediately, research Amazon's listing and buy something written by John Kabat-Zinn or Thich Nhat Hanh and just begin with their simple suggestions. If you need something cognitive-based which will give you immediate techniques for transforming your thoughts into more useful directions, then buy "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David Burns.
The study of meditation and cognitive science by reading books about them means nothing in and of itself except for the pleasant diversion of satisfying intellectual curiosity. Unfortunately there is no free lunch in this life. Only direct action by practicing the techniques daily can deliver the actual reality of delivery the potential for neuroplasticity to make a difference in your own life. You actually do have to "Train Your Mind" to "Change Your Brain". Why not just take the step of actually doing it to conduct your own personal experiment rather that just reading the experiments of others?
So marketers: be mindful of the implied promise of your catchy titles. Be precise about what a book actually is about. Deception is not a fair technique to the potential reader who has access to the dreaded "1 click" button.
So to my ratings:
*delivers on the science and the promise
*doesn't deliver any action plan
* people who are interested in the science of this field
* those who for some reason need validation that meditation is useful
Not good for:
* someone searching for the actual transformative practices which can be implemented now. That requires more books or training.
So be sure the cost of the book meets your needs and expectations.
The book's central message is a little like the old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb--mind/brain change comes to an individual who really wants to change, and has the will to exert the needed effort. But techniques of mental discipline can be learned, and with proper motivation we can truly "re-wire" ourselves, potentially to eliminate violent or selfish impulses, for instance. The Dalai Lama is one leader who has already grasped the significance of the new science of neuroplasticity. Let us hope many others can follow in his footsteps. I highly recommend this book, which is readily understandable even for those with a minimal scientific background.
". . . As late as 1999, neurologists writing in the prestigious journal Science admitted, "We are still taught that the fully mature brain lacks the intrinsic mechanisms needed to replenish neurons and reestablish neuronal networks after acute injury or in response to the insidious loss of neurons seen in neurodegen- erative diseases."
"Neuroscientist Fred Gage, one of the researchers invited by the Dalai Lama to discuss the implications of neuroplasticity with him and other Buddhist scholars at the 2004 meeting, put the objections to the idea of a changing brain this way: "If the brain was changeable, then we would change. And if the brain made wrong changes, then we would change incorrectly. It was easier to believe there were no changes. That way, the individual would remain pretty much fixed."
"But the dogma is wrong. In the last years of the twentieth century, a few iconoclastic neuroscientists challenged the paradigm that the adult brain cannot change and made discovery after discovery that, to the contrary, it retains stunning powers of neuroplasticity. The brain can indeed be rewired. It can expand the area that is wired to move the fingers, forging new connections that underpin the dexterity of an accomplished violinist. It can activate long-dormant wires and run new cables like an electrician bringing an old house up to code, so that regions that once saw can instead feel or hear. It can quiet circuits that once crackled with the aberrant activity that characterizes depression and cut pathological connections that keep the brain in the oh-god-something-is-wrong state that marks obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The adult brain, in short, retains much of the plasticity of the developing brain, including the power to repair damaged regions, to grow new neurons, to rezone regions that performed one task and have them assume a new task, to change the circuitry that weaves neurons into the networks that allow us to remember, feel, suffer, think, imagine, and dream. Yes, the brain of a child is remarkably malleable. But contrary to Ramón y Cajal and most neuroscientists since, the brain can change its physical structure and its wiring long into adulthood."
"A few findings suggest that brain changes can be generated by pure mental activity: merely thinking about playing the piano leads to a measurable, physical change in the brain's motor cortex, and thinking about thoughts in certain ways can restore mental health. By willfully treating invasive urges and compulsions as errant neurochemistry--rather than as truthful messages that something is amiss--patients with OCD have altered the activity of the brain region that generates the OCD thoughts, for instance.
By thinking differently about the thoughts that threaten to send them back into the abyss of despair, patients with depression have dialed up activity in one region of the brain and quieted it in another, reducing their risk of relapse. Something as seemingly insubstantial as a thought has the ability to act back on the very stuff of the brain, altering neuronal connections in a way that can lead to recovery from mental illness and perhaps to a greater capacity for empathy and compassion."
"The discovery that thinking something produces effects just as doing something does is a fascinating consonance with Buddhism," says Francisca Cho. "Buddhism challenges the traditional belief in an external, objective reality.
Instead, it teaches that our reality is created by our own projections; it is thinking that creates the external world beyond us. The neuroscience findings harmonize with this Buddhist teaching."
"Buddhist narratives have another consonance with the discoveries of neuroplasticity. They teach that by detaching ourselves from our thoughts, by observing our thinking dispassionately and with clarity, we have the ability to think thoughts that allow us to overcome afflictions such as being chronically angry. "You can undergo an emotional reeducation," Cho says. "By meditative exertion and other mental exercises, you can actively change your feelings, your attitudes, your mind-set."
"Indeed, Buddhism believes that the mind has a formidable power of self-transformation. When thoughts come to the untrained mind, they can run wild, triggering destructive emotions such as craving and hatred. But mental training, a core of Buddhist practice, allows us "to identify and to control emotions and mental events as they arise," says Matthieu Ricard. Meditation, the most highly developed form of mental training, "is about coming to a new perception of reality and of the nature of mind, about nurturing new qualities until they become integral parts of our being.
If we place all our hopes and fears in the outside world, we have quite a challenge, because our control of the outside world is weak, temporary, and even illusory. It is more within the scope of our faculties to change the way we translate the outside world into inner experience. We have a great deal of freedom in how we transform that experience, and that is the basis for mental training and transformation."
Although this is not a "Buddhist" book, I can genuinely personally attest from my study of Buddhism and the positive mind changes that I have experienced by incorporating "right mindfulness and loving compassion" which has significantly transformed what used to be depression, insecurity, and nervousness, into so much more inner peace. As a result, my brain (thinking) became more focused, and aligned with positive intention.
This is an OUTSTANDING book, and a deep, engaging read for anyone interested in positive transformation, and mind functioning at its peak. FANTASTIC in all regards!
Barbara Rose, Ph.D. author of If God Hears Me I Want an Answer! and Know Yourself