Our brains are more powerful than we ever realized.
Too often, we humans tend to assume that nature is fixed, immutable—and this tendency is particularly strong when we think about matters of the mind and behaviour. People just can’t change, we say, so they must somehow be prevented from becoming a burden on society or from hurting themselves and others. Neuroplasticity—the virtually limitless capacity of the brain to remould itself—turns these notions on their heads.
Leading brain researcher Niels Birbaumer brings new hope to those suffering from depression, anxiety, ADHD, addiction, dementia, the effects of a stroke, or even the extremes of locked-in syndrome or psychopathy. Like the fathers and mothers of psychiatry, Birbaumer explores the sometimes-wild frontiers of a new way of thinking about our brains and behavior. Through actual cases from his research and practice, he shows how we can change through training alone, and without risky drugs. Open your mind to change.
Foreword: Why We Change
1. What Is Personality? from a street gang to university is just a small step
2. Anything Is Possible? the plastic brain
3. The Coming Out of Locked-in Patients how the brain gives a voice to the voiceless
4. No Case for Euthanasia the quality of life of vegetative and locked-in patients
5. Hope for People Suffering from Epilepsy or Stroke our brain’s enormous powers of self-healing
6. Brutal Confrontation controlling anxiety and depression without medication
7. Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Key? even psychopaths can change
8. The Trained Brain living better with Parkinson’s and dementia
9. Fidgeting Is Not an Inescapable Fate treating ADHD without drugs
10. Genius for All how we can improve our perception
11. Nirvana is there life beyond greed, addiction, and want, want, want?
Acknowledgements References Notes
Niels Birbaumer is a psychologist and neurobiologist. He is a leading figure in the development of brain–computer interfaces, a field he has researched for 40 years, with a focus on treating brain disturbances. He has been awarded numerous international honors and prizes, including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize and the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. Professor Birbaumer is co-director of the Institute of Behavioural Neurobiology at the University of Tübingen in Germany, and senior researcher at the Wyss Centre for Bio- and Neuro-engineering in Switzerland.
Jörg Zittlau is a freelance journalist, and writes about science, psychology, and philosophy, among other topics. He is also the author of several bestsellers.
David Shaw works as a journalist for Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, as well as translating from several languages, including German, Dutch, Russian, and French. He lives in Berlin.
“A fascinating read and a groundbreaking work on the human condition. Birbaumer shares his insatiable curiosity and gives us a tour of the human brain, the many cases he’s worked on, and the therapies he’s pioneered—some of which are truly radical!”
—David Roland, author of How I Rescued My Brain
“The ideas here may be controversial but are also exciting…Though far from definitive, this book is daring and unconventional.”