The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force

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9780060393557: The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force

A landmark work that offers new answers to one of the oldest mysteries in human thought: the connection between mind and brain.

Conventional science has long held the position that "the mind" is merely an illusion, a side effect of electrochemical activity in the physical brain. Now comes a major work, grounded in two decades of research, that argues exactly the opposite: that the mind has a life of its own.

In The Mind and the Brain, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a leading researcher in brain dysfunctions, and Wall Street Journal science columnist Sharon Begley demonstrate that the human mind is an independent entity that can shape and control the functioning of the physical brain. Their work has its basis in our emerging understanding of adult plasticity -- the brain's ability to be rewired not just in childhood, but throughout life, a trait only recently established by scientists. But in this paradigm-shifting work, Schwartz and Begley take neuroplasticity one critical step further. Through decades of work treating patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Schwartz made an extraordinary finding: while following the therapy he developed, his patients were effecting significant and lasting changes in their own neural pathways. It was a scientific first: by actively focusing their attention away from negative behaviors and toward more positive ones, Schwartz's patients were using their minds to reshape their brains.

The Mind and the Brain follows Schwartz as he investigates this newly discovered power, which he calls self-directed neuroplosticity or, more simply, mental force. It describes his work with noted physicist Henry Stapp to establish the basic mechanics of self-directed neuroplasticity in quantum physics, and reveals its connections with the ancient practice of mindfulness in Buddhist tradition. And it points to potential new applications that could transform the treatment of almost every variety of neurological dysfunction, from dyslexia to stroke -- and could lead to new strategies to help us harness our mental powers.

Yet as wondrous as these implications are, perhaps even more important is the philosophical dimension of Schwartz's work. For the existence of mental force offers convincing scientific evidence of human free will, and thus of man's inherent capacity for moral choice. Challenging the scientific mainstream, Schwartz and Begley suggest boldly that we human beings are more than mere automatons -- that with the ability to shape our brains comes the power to shape our destiny. The conclusions they draw, and the questions they raise, should provoke debate among not only scientists but philosophers, legal scholars, and anyone who cares about the role of man in the universe.

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About the Author:

Jeffrey M. Schwartz M.D. is an internationally-recognized authority on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and is the author of the bestseller Brain Lock. He is a Research Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Award-winning writer Sharon Begley is the science columnist for the Wall Street Journal; before that she was senior science writer for Newsweek. She lives in Pelham New York.

From Publishers Weekly:

Schwartz (A Return to Innocence), a UCLA psychiatrist and expert on treating patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), teams up with Begley, a Wall Street Journal science columnist, to explore the mind/brain dichotomy and to discuss the science behind new treatments being developed for a host of brain dysfunctions. Building on the work presented in Schwartz's first book, Brain Lock, the authors begin by demonstrating that OCD patients are capable of rechanneling compulsive urges into more socially acceptable activities and that, by doing so, they actually alter their brains' neuronal circuitry. By presenting a wide array of animal and human experiments, Schwartz and Begley show that similar neuroplasticity is possible in stroke victims, often leading to a return of function previously thought impossible. The medical results and treatments they summarize are exciting and deserve widespread attention. In a chapter entitled "Free Will and Free Won't," the authors turn to the philosophical, examining the implications neuroplasticity might have on the differences between mind and brain; they also discourse on the existence of free will. Unfortunately, their integration of quantum mechanics and Buddhism into a search for a mechanism to explain the patterns scientists have been discovering is too superficial to fully engage readers. Nonetheless, a great deal in this book is sure to motivate discussion and more research.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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