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The greatest scientific advances are never the result of strict adherence to convention. Often it takes an innovative maverick, someone willing to see things differently while possessing the determination and intelligence to substantiate his challenges to conventional wisdom. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., a leading neuroscientist and Research Professor of...
The greatest scientific advances are never the result of strict adherence to convention. Often it takes an innovative maverick, someone willing to see things differently while possessing the determination and intelligence to substantiate his challenges to conventional wisdom. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., a leading neuroscientist and Research Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, an international authority on brain diseases and author of the definitive work on obsessive compulsive disorder, Brain Lock, has defied convention again in his new book, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force. The Mind and the Brain, written with Sharon Begley, formerly Newsweek's senior science writer and now science columnist for The Wall Street Journal, is a work as profound as it is provocative: a book that gives substantial proof that - contrary to popular scientific belief - the entity we commonly call "the mind" has the power to change the makeup of the physical brain. For years, there has been a division between the assumptions of hard science 'which contended that the brain functioned essentially as a machine' and our daily human experience, which seems to suggest that "the mind" is something different from the physical brain, a force we are capable of harnessing for our benefit. This was a conflict that always bothered Jeffrey Schwartz, who was responsible for the revolutionary Four Steps therapy that has helped patients around the world battle the effects of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). His therapy was grounded in cognitive-behavioural principles, which drew on a patient's own awareness of his state of mind, and involved the patient directly in his own therapy. Combining the revelations of more than two decades of research with a progressive approach influenced by the Buddhist principle of "mindful awareness," Schwartz's therapy was wildly successful but it also opened a door into a much more significant revelation: while reviewing his patients' brain scans, Schwartz discovered that their self-directed therapy was actually changing the wiring of their brains. This major discovery is at the core of The Mind and the Brain: that through the power of thought, by focusing attention, human beings can use their own minds to change their brains. The scientific implications of this discovery are manifold: victims of stroke may be able to use the discovery to help reassume command of their bodies and lives, and psychiatrists treating patients with mental disorders may be able to decrease their patients' reliance on psychiatric drugs. As a therapeutic advance, then, The Mind and the Brain offers a paradigm shift that promises new treatments for conditions from dyslexia to depression. Schwartz's discovery may amount to the most conclusive scientific evidence to date of the existence of free will 'that is, the power of human beings to take an active role in the choices they make. In the book Schwartz points accusingly at the "moral vacuum" created by the old, materialistic worldview and raises questions of personal responsibility in a new light. Infused with the insatiable curiosity of a scientific trailblazer and the passion of a crusader, The Mind and the Brain is a daring and groundbreaking work of research and vision - one whose conclusions are sure to make waves within the scientific community, and to affect profoundly the human race's understanding of itself.
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