Follow-​​up on the Begley Mind-​​Brain book

I fin­ished read­ing the Sharon Beg­ley book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (Bal­lan­tine Books, 2007). Actu­ally, I fin­ished it more than 10 days ago, but have not had a chance to write about it. Now, it’s hard to remem­ber what I wanted to do. I prob­a­bly should have been writ­ing as I was read­ing. Actu­ally, I was trav­el­ing dur­ing some of that time so I could not post to my blog. Lots of excuses, lots of things keep­ing me busy, lots of yoga and med­i­ta­tion that take first priority.

In brief, the book firmed up my own sense of hope about where we are headed in the brain sci­ences. The leap of knowl­edge and under­stand­ing over the past two decades has been huge. And we are only begin­ning to refor­mu­late the­o­ries of the mind and its work­ings. Freud as the great nav­i­ga­tor of the ego and id has been left behind. Even the chem­istry of Prozac and Val­ium seem to be the psy­cho­log­i­cal equiv­a­lent of alchemy.

The nar­ra­tive ran out of gas in the last three chap­ters. Beg­ley depended on psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies and inter­views of researchers for the meat of her con­tent. That for­mula can be dry read­ing once it is repeated over 250 pages. Even the lit­er­ary ruse of mak­ing the Dalai Lama the focal point of the nar­ra­tive can squeeze only so much drama. Beg­ley prob­a­bly could have spared us some of the dry details and gone straight to the con­clu­sions of each study.

Other takes

I was struck by the large num­ber of pod­casts that are avail­able on the book. Blog Crit­ics (March). National Pub­lic Radio (NPR) has two pro­grams: Diane Rehm Pro­gram via Odeo and Talk of the Nation. Dr. Gin­ger Camp­bell Brain Sci­ence Pod­cast, Psy­chjour­ney Pod­casts and Heal­ing the Mind. I have not had a chance to lis­ten to all of them.

Psy­chother­apy Net­worker The Won­ders of Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, Dis­cover: Rewiring the Brain, and Dana Foun­da­tion.

For addi­tional back­ground, here’s Sharon Begley’s Per­sonal web­site and the Richard Davidson’s per­sonal page at the Uni­ver­sity of Wisconsin’s Lab for Affec­tive Neuroscience.