The Woman Who Changed Her Brain

And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation

Foreword by: Norman Doidge
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Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was born with severe learning disabilities that caused teachers to label her slow, stubborn—or worse. As a child, she read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, continually got lost, and was physically uncoordinated. She could make no sense of an analogue clock. But by relying on her formidable memory and iron will, she made her way to graduate school, where she chanced upon research that inspired her to invent cognitive exercises to “fix” her own brain. The Woman Who Changed Her Brain interweaves her personal tale with riveting case histories from her more than thirty years of working with both children and adults.

Recent discoveries in neuroscience have conclusively demonstrated that, by engaging in certain mental tasks or activities, we actually change the structure of our brains—from the cells themselves to the connections between cells. The capability of nerve cells to change is known as neuroplasticity, and Arrowsmith-Young has been putting it into practice for decades. With great inventiveness, after combining two lines of research, Barbara developed unusual cognitive calisthenics that radically increased the functioning of her weakened brain areas to normal and, in some areas, even above-normal levels. She drew on her intellectual strengths to determine what types of drills were required to target the specific nature of her learning problems, and she managed to conquer her cognitive deficits. Starting in the late 1970s, she has continued to expand and refine these exercises, which have benefited thousands of individuals. Barbara founded Arrowsmith School in Toronto in 1980 and then the Arrowsmith Program to train teachers and to implement this highly effective methodology in schools all over North America. Her work is revealed as one of the first examples of neuroplasticity’s extensive and practical application. The idea that self-improvement can happen in the brain has now caught fire.

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain powerfully and poignantly illustrates how the lives of children and adults struggling with learning disorders can be dramatically transformed. This remarkable book by a brilliant pathbreaker deepens our understanding of how the brain works and of the brain’s profound impact on how we participate in the world. Our brains shape us, but this book offers clear and hopeful evidence of the corollary: we can shape our brains.
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Book Details:
  • Free Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451607932 | 
  • May 2012
List Price $29.99

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The Woman Who Changed Her Brain

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young was born with severe learning disabilities that caused teachers to label her slow, stubborn—or worse. As a child, she read and wrote everything backward, struggled to process concepts in language, continually got lost, and...

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INTRODUCTION

March 2, 1943, Vyazma, Western Russia

On this sunny, almost warm but damp day, the soldiers are chilled, their army-issue felt boots soaked. Lieutenant Lyova Zazetsky, just twenty-three years old, commands a platoon of flame-throwers—part of a contingent pushing back against the German invaders who are dug in atop the steep and rocky banks of the frozen Vorya River.

Comrade Zazetsky looks west, where they will soon be headed. He talks to his men, encouraging them while they all wait impatiently in the stillness, as they have for the past two days. Finally, the order comes to advance, and the only sound... see more
CHAPTER ONE

THE ANATOMY OF RESISTANCE

Why are educators still telling parents that learning disabilities are lifelong? Given the great weight of evidence for neuroplasticity, why are cognitive exercises not more widely recognized as a treatment for learning disabilities?

We now take it as a given that the brain is inherently plastic, capable of change and constantly changing. The human brain can remap itself, grow new neural connections, and even grow new neurons over the course of a lifetime.

When I went to university in the 1970s, I was taught that the brain was fixed: what you were born with is what you... see more

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