2016 was a busy year for me in the reading category. I find that books are some of my best mentors: offering insights that are tangible and always accessible. To me books are an investment, not an expense, and building a personal library is a powerful source of wisdom. I have readers of this blog who often ask where I get my ideas and the "where do you learn that?" question. Much can be answered by the books on this list. So if you're looking for some new reading material in 2017 read on to discover my favorite, and eclectic list, from this past year.
It's been awhile since I've put a Recommended Readings post together and, while I have been sharing them on Twitter, I thought it was time to put one up on the site. This post includes books on the neuroscience of trauma, learning and habits, consciousness and embodied cognition, and how to be more present. Enjoy!
Our ability to appropriately integrate stimuli from the environment is crucial to our self-perception and neurological wiring — ultimately altering our capacity for optimal function and performance. This month's additions to the Recommended Readings List focus on two books that address the use of specific stimuli on neuroplastic healing and how the brain determines where we are in space.
The Brain's Way of Healing by Norman Doidge
We influence the brain and body thru receptors — auditory, visual, mechanical, vestibular, etc. — to alter and induce neuroplastic and eventually bioplastic changes in the structure and function of the entire human system. In his follow-up to The Brain That Changes Itself, Doidge elaborates on how scientists and clinicians are utilizing energy to modulate existing neural pathways and forming new ones, ultimately altering how we perceive reality. I especially enjoyed his chapter on Moshe Feldenkrais as well the use of auditory stimuli in changing functional networks in the brain. Although it can be a bit effusive in the praise of a certain technique, this is a fantastic book on the basics of neuroplastic healing.
Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are by Jennifer M. Groh
The ability to perceive our location relative to the environment goes largely unnoticed consciously, despite a great many resources devoted to it. Our resting neurological state of being is predicated, at least in part, on our ability to accurately perceive space - alterations of this are often manifested in dysfunctional states. Groh discusses the neurophysiology of how the brain synthesizes multi-modal information to determine our location and how our memory is an innate process of our spacial reasoning. This book is rather straightforward and can be a bit dry but an excellent book for the basics on how we know where things are.
P.S. If you haven't yet watched my interview with Dave Tilley, DPT you are missing the boat! Check it out in my prior post or on Dave's website, The Hybrid Perspective.
As I did back in April, once I reach a critical mass I will post the most salient points from books I've found highly engaging. This month's additions to the reading list are focused on three of my most favorite of topics: stress, neuroplasticity, and the mind.
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky
This book is now in its third edition and despite my being relatively late to the party, it is an immense resource on the effects of stress. The body has a surprisingly predictable set of responses to stressors, irrespective of the modality, that affect the way we think, interact, and move in the environment (though not much is addressed on the neuromuscular component of the stress response unfortunately).
Our human condition is such that the stress-response is chronically mobilized not only by physical or psychological stressors, but also in our anticipation of them. This is of significant importance in working with clients as we are often the source of such stressors when using techniques, language, or movements that are threatening thus amplifying what we should be trying to reduce. Sapolsky's writings were a major source of influence in my last post. Realizing that the stress response is a catalyst to alterations in the super-system ultimately causing dysfunction, if chronic, is so powerful that the importance of this book cannot be understated, bro.
The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
Probably the best known mainstream book on neuroplasticity, Doidge writes about some of the pioneers of plasticity and their clients' success stories. Neuroplasticity is an immune-mediated property inherent to all humans. Salient stimuli that grab our attention are particularly powerful in changing neural patterns - something that most clinicians fail to incorporate in their treatment/training paradigms.
Every input to the nervous system alters it in some way, perhaps transiently at first but over time repeated stimuli change the way our brain perceives the body and the environment. Without concentration and attention, learning is slow and flimsy - if it occurs at all. In order to change biobehavioral patterns we have to get our clients to pay attention. This book is full of amazing stories (and references - I geeked out following the articles referenced in each chapter) and it's principles crucial for driving the profession as it appears many clinicians don't know (or have forgotten) even the basics of neuroplasticity.
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
I'll keep this one short: this is a neuroscientist's explanation of how we perceive the world around us and how the illusion of self drives much of our suffering and preoccupation with the past or future - preventing us from engaging in the present moment. Harris teaches a mindful, contemplative approach from a scientific viewpoint which eliminates much of the vagaries associated with the religious aspects of meditation.
Back next week with some new stuff.
Around once a month (or when I've reached a critical mass of crushing some texts) I hope to add a few books to the Recommended Readings Page and post them here along with how they connect to current training and/or rehab paradigms.
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
This book originally helped launch the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs that are used all over the world to exceptional success. Dr. Kabat-Zinn outlines and describes the approach in detail including a thorough body scan method which we discussed in my previous post. I have used the principles here at length in therapeutic neuroscience education for those experiencing pain and/or stress.
Pain is not a "body problem" it is a system problem involving sensory inputs, as well as the emotional and cognitive aspects of pain. By disengaging from the perception of pain and removing the attachment of the self from the current experience ("you" are not merely your body or your pain but rather it is a transient experience separate from the self) one can change the brain's processing of inputs and reduce the brain's primal responses to threat.
I must say though I don't love the title as it is a little too alarmist (especially as it's written primarily for those dealing with chronic pain and/or stress), but whatever sells bro.
Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
Interacting with the subconscious mind is something we cannot help but do as clinicians, coaches, or humans. Everything we do and interact with affects the brain, on multiple levels including the conscious cortex and the subconscious midbrain and brainstem. Dr. Mlodinow discusses how inaccurate our memory truly is, how the brain fills in the sensory gaps in vision and hearing, and how our perceptions influence our thoughts. Expectation of benefit is critical in getting the desired movements and responses in our athletes, much of which is filtered before it even reaches conscious thought - the tone of voice, nonverbal behavior, and sensory cues all impact how effective we are at improving movement and performance.