Neuroplasticity Enters Main Stream Through Dr Norman Doidge


Dr Norman Doidge with his ground-breaking 2007 bestseller, The Brain That Changes Itself, brought neuroscience and the concept of the 'plastic' brain into the mainstream. Neuroplasticity was on the map. The German physiologist Manfred Zimmermann talked about a ‘neuroplastic’ event in 1978 but neuroplasticity would remain generally unaccepted for another 25 years. It might be an idea to reread my article involving Dr Norman Doidge An International Rebirth Part 1.

 Dr Bernie Siegel and PNI (Psychoneuroimmunology)

In 1975, Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohen at the University of Rochester, advanced PNI (Psychoneuroimmunology) with their demonstration of classic conditioning of immune function, and they subsequently coined the term "psycho-neuro-immunology".  Psychoneuroimmunology and its application to humans is the ability to use the mind to positively effect the immune system. It really wasn’t put on the map until Dr Bernie Siegel worked with it in the Television Movie “Leap Of Faith” in 1988. I believe that my Meditation Peaceful Place CD #4 called “Healing Yourself” uses psychoneuroimmunology. I also refer you to my How To - Healing Guide which also shows the link to the Dr Bernie Siegel movie excerpts.

There are many meditations I have which work inside the mind, changing neural pathways of previous bad habits and replacing them with new neural pathways of good habits. This is achieved in the meditation state using guided imagery, visualisation and positive self-talk daily for at least 30 days. In that 30 days a new neural pathway will be formed and because the old pathway is not used any more it will drop away. You can read about the proof of this in my article called Mind and Matter – Mind Matters.  These meditations include Releasing Hurt, Healing Yourself, Forgiveness, Weight Release, Letting Go Anger, Self-Worth and Confidence, Making Sleep Easy and Useful, Improving Relationships, Letting Go Fear – in fact all of them.

Dr Norman Doidge and Neuroplasticity

Have you read Dr Norman Doidge’s new book called The Brain’s Way of Healing? It’s is a great read with ground-breaking descriptions of the application of Neuroplasticity.

Dr  Doidge’s definition of Neuroplasticity is “Neuro-plasticity is the property of the brain that enables it to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience.”  My words would include “building new neural pathways” which means that responses and reactions are changed – that is, habits are changed.

Neuroplasticity and Moscowitz’s Application To Handling Pain

Dr Doidge writes about this story in his book The Brain’s Way of Healing.The Weekend Australian Magazine on 31 January 2015 published the article headed “Training The Brain To Beat Pain” which you can read in full here.

Below is a summary of some key points taken from that article:

After working for years as a psychiatrist, Moskowitz started a pain clinic in California, which treats patients who came “to die with their pain.”

He became a world leader in the use of neuroplasticity as a result of treating himself. In 1994, while water-skiing with his daughters, Moskowitz, aged 57, was speeding, splashing, and pounding at 60km/h in an inflated inner tube when he flipped over and hit the water with his head bent backward. The resulting pain persisted for 13 years with all treatments barely touching it.

The idea that chronic pain was caused by a neuroplastic event of the brain had been proposed by the German physiologist Manfred Zimmermann in 1978, but as neuroplasticity would remain generally unaccepted for another 25 years, Zimmermann’s idea was hardly known, and its applications to treat pain unexplored.

Wishing to take charge of his own pain, in 2007 Moskowitz explored the laws of neuroplastic change to put them into practice for his own pain.

What if, when he was in pain, he could try to override the natural ­tendency to retreat, lie down, rest, stop thinking and nurse himself?

He visualised the very brain maps he had drawn (the brain in acute pain, the brain in chronic pain, and the third picture was of the brain when it is not ­registering pain at all), to remind himself that the brain can really change, so he’d stay motivated.

He has helped patients with a wide range of chronic pain syndromes to diminish their pain, including those with chronic low-back pain from nerve injury and inflammatory damage, diabetic neuropathy, some cancer pain, abdominal pain, neck degeneration pain, amputation, trauma to the brain and spinal cord.

Dr Norman Doidge and ABC Radio National Episode on “All in the Mind”

What follows are  extracts from a broadcast by Lynne Malcolm on ABC  Radio National on Tuesday 21 April 2015 talking about Dr Norman Doidge in an episode of ‘All in the Mind’.

Dr Norman Doidge has travelled the world meeting people who have healed themselves using neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change in response to stimuli and experience. He told Lynne Malcolm how the concept may change the way we treat everything from ADD to Parkinson’s.

Scientists now know that the brain has an amazing ability to change and heal itself in response to mental experience. This phenomenon, known as neuroplasticity, is considered to be one of the most important developments in modern science for our understanding of the brain.

The brain is not fixed and unchangeable, as was once thought, but can create new neural pathways to adapt to its needs. This has led to an explosion of interest in the power of brain training to improve our focus, memory attention and performance.

Dr Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist and researcher from the University of Toronto in Canada, put neuroplasticity in the spotlight in 2007 when he released his bestseller “The Brain That Changes Itself”.

The thing that is so beautiful about this is it's something that anyone has access to.

Since then he’s explored the powerful therapeutic potential of neuroplasticity and demonstrated that the brain has its own unique way of healing . 

His latest book, “The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries From the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity”, tells the stories of patients benefiting from neuroplasticity, healing their brains without medication or surgery.

In conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, autism and attention deficit disorder, the brain’s general neuronal and cellular health goes awry.

The problems may be the result of inflammation, toxicity or genetically induced cellular abnormalities. Circuits may die, become dormant or begin firing at irregular rates. Doidge calls this a ‘noisy brain’.

“Think of people with traumatic brain injury,” he says. “There are certain things they can't do anymore, and that's because circuits are dormant, but there are other circuits that seem to be hyperactive. They are very, very sensitive to sounds and light and so on: that all has to be rebalanced. Then the brain goes through a period of rest and then it goes through learning.”

In “The Brain’s Way of Healing”, Doidge describes interventions that are non-invasive and use the senses or movement of the body to access the brain.

Doidge tells the story of John Pepper, who has Parkinson's. The disease is a result of damage to the dopamine-producing cells in the brain that help us make automatic movements. This damage leads to difficulties with movement, balance and walking.

Pepper wasn’t responding to conventional medication, but began to pay very close attention to the individual movements involved in walking when he joined his wife in a get-fit program.

“What he found was that he could do movements with that level of awareness, by breaking it down, because that's not broken in the Parkinson's brain,” says Doidge. “He was actually using another part of his brain, in the frontal lobes, to work around the Parkinson's.”

Pepper was conscientious with his walking exercises and saw remarkable improvement in his Parkinson’s symptoms.

He was using activity, thought and movement to stimulate dormant circuitry in his brain, which found other ways to overcome the problem.

“The thing that is so beautiful about this is it's something that anyone has access to,” says Doidge.

It also highlights how valuable movement—even the very simple act of walking—can be for the body and the brain. Doidge cites a recent large study by the Cochrane Institute in Wales which showed that five activities—exercise, not smoking, not drinking more than a glass of wine a day, eating four servings of fruit and vegetables daily and being a normal weight—reduce the risk of developing dementia by a staggering 60 per cent.

“Now, if any drug did that it would be the most talked about drug in the world probably, and the most powerful factor was exercise,” says Doidge.

So, I hope you get some ideas from this Mind Matters News which will assist your understanding of the work that I have been doing since 1989. Yes – I have been teaching Neuroplasticity since 1989 but we didn’t call it that then. We coined it Active Meditation – that is being active inside your mind during meditation.  At least now there is science that backs it all up and it has entered main stream albeit under a different name.

Use the meditations to achieve - CDs and Downloads.

All the best


Sandy MacGregor

"Your gift from God is your potential – Your gift to God is to use it."

Success Stories

I first did the two day CALM seminar in 1995 at a venue in Willoughby? St Leonards? Crows Nest? – anyway, somewhere in that vicinity. I was doing a law degree at the time and not coping. The techniques you taught me helped enormously and I continued to use them right through my degree. I was 39 then and I’m just turning 60 now, and I still use the Guided Imagery/Peaceful Place cassette and also the instrumental only version which I have since bought on CD. I also still use the same ‘peaceful place’ which I ‘built’ at that seminar all those years agoCS, NSW.

By the way, I first read your book 'Piece of Mind' when I was about 14 or 15 and it had a really big impact on me. I used your techniques throughout my secondary schooling to good effect. I have raved about the book to anyone who would listen ever since (and evidently, at some stage, someone has borrowed my copy and not returned it - but thankfully I now have a Kindle version instead!).
Now, at age 35, I am hoping to revisit the lessons I learnt over 20 years ago... You are one of my heroes! Thanks for inspiring me.  HM, Vic.


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