The Woman who Changed Her Brain: How We Can Shape our Minds and Other Tales of Cognitive Transformation by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young
|The Woman who Changed Her Brain: How We Can Shape our Minds and Other Tales of Cognitive Transformation by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young
|Reviewer: Louise Jones
|Summary: The inspiring true story of a woman who fixed her brain by means of neuroplasticity techniques.
|Date: May 2013
|External links: Author's website
Imagine feeling like a stranger in your own body, unable to comprehend the world around you. Symbols, words and numbers swirl in an unintelligible mix on the page and make no sense at all. Activities that others perform with ease are a struggle for you, leading to deep feelings of frustration. This was the challenge that Barbara-Arrowsmith-Young faced daily as a result of her complex learning disabilities. Her intense feelings of despair even caused her to attempt suicide.
Thankfully, a chance discovery changed everything for Barbara. A friend introduced her to the work of Alexandr Romanovich Luria, a Russian doctor and psychologist who worked with brain-injured soldiers. His pioneering cognitive exercises helped the soldiers to regain some of their lost abilities. Barbara saw many parallels with the challenges faces by the brain-injured soldiers and her own life. Although the cause of her brain injury was congenital, the effects were the same as those experienced by the soldiers. She had the idea of adapting Luria’s exercises with the goal of improving her own cognitive abilities. To her amazement, it worked.
By devising a simple puzzle involving the hands of a clock, Barbara was able to train parts of her brain that were previously weak. To her surprise, this had a beneficial effect on all of her cognitive abilities and she found herself able to do many things that she had previously thought impossible. She went on to develop further exercises and eventually opened her own school for those with cognitive impairments. The book is full of remarkable case histories of those who have been helped by the Arrowsmith School.
My only slight criticism of the book is that it can sometimes read like an extended advert for the Arrowsmith School. The case studies are fascinating, but very little is said about how the participants reached their goals. In short, we have a before and after, but the middle is left blank. The book is remarkably silent when it comes to discussing the methods and exercises used in the school.
The book is a riveting read and Barbara is a truly exceptional, inspiring individual. Unwilling to accept the cards that life had dealt her, she worked tirelessly to develop her cognitive powers and achieve her goals. Her ideas on the brain and neuroplasticity are now being taken more seriously by scientists, who previously thought the brain to be rigid and hardwired. This is a fascinating book, ideal for anyone interested in how the brain works.
Those interested in increasing their brain power may enjoy How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim
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