Here are suggested readings (and a video) for participants at the Amherst in San Francisco event, January 24, 2009. If you have basic knowledge about neuroscience already, skip #2 and/or #3.
(1) To get started: a dramatic example of whole-brain plasticity, from the Discovery Channel via Youtube:
Recovery from hemispherectory (6-minute video clip)
(2) Basic background about brain development and learning, from the Society for Neuroscience "Brain Facts" series (pdf format, requires Acrobat reader):
(3) Background articles specifically about neural plasticity for the lay reader, also from the Society for Neuroscience:
(4) Recent scientific articles about brain plasticity. Many scientific journals are available only via a subscription or affiliation with an academic institution, but here is an online issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B from September 2006 that's available to everyone on the internet. This issue consists of papers on "The regenerating brain." The articles can be viewed in 'HTML' format (in small print) or as 'pdf' files in larger print. These will be technical for non-science people, but are worth at least looking at to get an idea of current research in this field.
Here are some additional optional links, including some showing how neural plasticity is being noticed in areas such as the business world and even religion:
Brain Fitness Activity 1 (from the Brain Fitness Channel)
How learning changes your brain (from SharpBrains.com)
How thinking can change the brain (from the Dalai Lama)
Adult Brain Neurons Can Remodel Connections (from Science News)
New Adult Brain Cells May Be Central To Lifelong Learning (from Science News)
And of course there are books. Here are some good recent general-interest books about the brain:
- The Brain that Changes Itself, by Normal Doidge (Viking, 2007).
- The New Brain: How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind by Richard Restak (Rodale Books, 2003).
- Welcome to your brain: Why you lose your car keys but never forget how to drive and other puzzles of everyday life, by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang Sam (Bloomsbury USA, 2008)
If you would like to sample the full range of scientific papers about this topic, use PubMed, the search service that provides access to the world's biomedical literature. PubMed is provided by the National Library of Medicine, whose director is Dr. Don Lindberg '54. Search on "neural plasticity." As of December 1/08, the search turned up 26,677 papers, of which 2,067 were published in the current year (2008). Many of these papers are available for free only if you have a subscription or an affiliation with an academic instiution.
One more resource: the 'Public Library of Science', an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Harold Varmus '61, has open access journals. Some papers in three of the PLoS series are about neural plasticity: see Plos Biology, Plos Medicine, and Plos Genetics.
If you have questions or comments, send e-mail or post a comment using the link at the bottom of this web page.
- Prof. Steve George