I’ve been out at the Sydney Writers’ Festival for the past couple of days. Among the long queues, the various shades of black, and the obligatory person in each session who ‘asks a question’ by making a long personal statement, I’ve been to some very interesting and inspiring sessions. One of the best so far was called The Brain that Changes Itself: Judge For Yourself, where an American research psychoanalyst named Norman Doidge talked about a book that he’s written about neuroplasticity. What an awesome word. Say it five times fast.
Dr Doidge calls neuroplasticity the most important alteration in our understanding of our brain for the last 400 years. The nutshell version is that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age. I’m not very good at explaining science stuff, so this is him talking about it to an audience in Melbourne in December last year.
If you want to see the whole talk (about an hour in total) you can check it out here. Here’s another video about the concept, concerning a young girl who had half of her brain removed, and then was able to resume a normal life after reteaching herself (or reconnecting neural pathways) how to do basic things like walking.
It’s fascinating stuff. Naturally, I bought the book after the session (at my cynical worst, I would say that the festival is just a series of 60 minute sale’s pitches), but I had to rush off to another session straight away and so couldn’t get it signed. After that next session though, I bought three books and got them all signed. I’m a sucker for autographs.