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 out 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 Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.