Downtown Toronto’s Indigo Bay & Bloor was a packed house on Tuesday, January 27th as Dr. Norman Doidge launched his new book, The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity.
The Toronto book launch marked the beginning of Doidge’s worldwide book tour. Over the next few months, he will be interviewed throughout North America, England and Australia.
The enormous crowd in attendance was captivated by Doidge as he engaged in a fascinating discussion with the Chief Book Lover of Indigo, Heather Reisman. Such a turnout was not surprising as Doidge’s first book, The Brain that Changes Itself, has sold over one million copies worldwide. It was obvious from the start that the majority of the hundreds of people present were disciples of Doidge.
Throughout the evening, Doidge, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, presented various cases of people’s lives being greatly improved through the reorganizing of the neural pathways in their brains. His argument is basically this, and I quote, “It’s pretty widely accepted that mindfulness changes brain structure for the better.”
Doidge’s anecdotes involved people who recovered partially or fully from serious diseases such as strokes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy through neuroplasticity-based interventions. He highlighted the case of John Pepper. Throughout the mid-1990s, Pepper developed a conscious walking technique that removed his symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Doidge admitted that the technique is not easy to perform, especially not for 75-minute durations as Pepper did. “You need crazy discipline. Chronic pain is the master of the discipline.”
Doidge repeatedly claimed that the symptoms experienced by people due to neurological ailments can be lessened greatly, and sometimes eliminated, when patients demonstrate tenacity and do the hard work he prescribes. Many people have criticized Doidge’s work as it lays a lot of pressure on patients to mitigate their own painful symptoms through hard work and willpower. Despite the controversies, I side with Doidge and his eagerness to empower patients to alleviate much of their suffering.
For centuries, scientists have theorized that our brains have imperial control over our bodies. Doidge, however, has conducted several research studies over the past few decades which have refuted this theory. Many patients who were fed up with living lives riddled with chronic pain had the motivation to fight against it. In Doidge’s research, patients were able to “weaken the pain maps in their brains” through exercise, mindfulness, visualization techniques and positive psychology.
For skeptics in the audience, Reisman asked “Why doesn’t every person in the world with Parkinson’s Disease follow this protocol?” Doidge smiled and shrugged.
She also asked him why other doctors are not applying the same neuroplastic healing therapies to improve people’s lives. Doidge answered, “Doctors do what gets insured.”
Any innovative idea takes years to be widely accepted, not only by the medical practitioners but, more importantly, by bureaucrats who design medical policies. Doidge predicts it will take at least a generation for the medical community to accept the breakthroughs in neuroplasticity research. Let’s hope that it takes less than twenty years for skeptics to finally accept his evidence proving the endless adaptability of the brain.
The autograph line-up was long and moved at a glacial pace as many of the patrons in front of me spoke to Doidge at length about their personal medical issues. I was impressed to see that Doidge listened and provided advice to each and every one of them with the attention of a caring family doctor.
As I watched the people in front of me listen attentively to Doidge, it became clear to me that he wasn’t merely trying to sell books that night. He was there to deliver his neuroplasticity message to the masses, determined to remove pain and suffering from people’s lives.
Dr. Doidge signing my copy of The Brain’s Way of Healing
If you missed this wonderful interview, don’t worry. Dr. Doidge will be returning to Toronto to speak at the Toronto Reference Library on February 10th.
Tuesday February 10, 2015
Norman Doidge at the Toronto Reference Library
Krembil Lecture series in partnership with The Krembil Foundation, Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Tue Feb 10, 2015, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Do you believe that neuroplasticity research is the way of the future?
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