Book Review

Author: Norman Doige, MD

Book review by Juliana Matteucci


“The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doige, MD is described by Discover as “A masterfully guided tour through the burgeoning field of neuroplasticity research”.

I found this book easy to read, but very difficult to put down. The chapters cover a broad range of topics – from a woman whose brain tricks her into feeling like she is always falling – even after she has hit the floor, to how pain and imagination can reshape and can actually change how our brains are wired.

Chapter 3 “Redesigning the Brain” was especially interesting because it reads like a celebrity interview with a pioneer of neuroplasticity, Dr. Michael Merzenich* who just happens to reside in Santa Rosa.

While plasticity sounds like it has to do with children’s PlaydoughTM, in terms of neurology it refers to the idea that the brain is changeable, malleable and able to be modified. Years ago, neuroplasticity was thought to exist only in very young children, but through Dr. Merzenich’s research and studies, scientists have had to rethink many commonly held theories and beliefs.

TMS has been used since the mid 1980’s for brain mapping – to identify and locate the exact part of the brain that controls specific parts of the body. When a single magnetic pulse is sent into the motor cortex on the left side or hemisphere of the brain, a response can be seen in the right hand. When Dr. Merzenich performed brain mapping on people who were born with two fingers fused together, a condition referred to as syndactlylism, he found that the two fingers fused together also registered in the brain as ONE indivisible unit. This was not surprising because it has long been known that “neurons that fire together – wire together”. But what was surprising was just how quickly the brain could rewire itself; the same brain mapping was performed after the fingers had been surgically separated, and in as little as only TWO WEEKS the brain rewired itself and showed two unique and separate fingers, where there had only been one unit before!

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in how the brain works, and how learning new things can actually change our brains – at any age!

Dr Micheal Merzenich is a professor emeritus neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. In the 1980’s he led the cochlear implant team at UCSF who developed the Clarion cochlear implant.


The TMS staff is proud to announce that we have had nine patients complete their treatments! Overall, we have seen amazing results and are looking forward to helping even more patients in 2017!