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Summary

Conventional science has long held the position that 'the mind' is merely an illusion, a side effect of electrochemical activity in the physical brain. Now in paperback, Dr Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley's groundbreaking work, The Mind and the Brain, argues exactly the opposite: that the mind has a life of its own.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2002 Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers

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Masterful!

A truly scintillating, intellect discourse on the case for Mind over Matter! A patient and articulate argument put forth with Clarity. Wonderful 'read!' Confirmation that the Mind runs the Show, and that the Brain is subject to the Mental Force (wow! What a phrase!) of the Mind! Awesome read!
Proof positive that Success is an Inside Out Job!

Mervyn Barrett

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Si
  • UK
  • 04-03-17

In the end it doesn't go far enough

The authors certainly do the groundwork for their proposition, most of the book is spent explaining (clearly and engagingly, admittedly) aspects of neurology and psychology that are not even cross-referenced with the authors' theory until over half way through the book.

The idea of conscious free will as mindful attention is as old as recorded history, present to some extent in almost all (if not all) religions, most obviously Buddhism, and spin-off writings of spiritualists and mystical teachers, Gurdjieff being IMO the best example (he is not mentioned in the book). The authors make an evidential and compelling link between attention and neural plasticity in the brain but this is as far as they take it. What exactly IS will if it is not, as the authors assert, just another brain function? Where did it come from and how did it evolve? I was left wondering if the authors had fallen into the religious trap of assuming humans are somehow special in the general natural scheme, as there is no mention of will existing outside of the human condition. If this is the case then will logically cannot be an external force as the authors claim. This contradiction is not resolved in the book.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Felix
  • LONDON, United Kingdom
  • 09-10-14

food for thought.. inconclusive in its assertions

Any additional comments?

I found this an interesting attempt to do away with materialism. Within is a hypothesis of a mechanism that attempts to establish both mind body dualism and free will utilizing quantum mechanics . Unsurprisingly it falls short and fails to deal with the seemingly intractable problem nicely elucidated by Schopenhauer as "Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills."

1 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Exceptionally good

Beautiful explanation of differences of mind and matter. And still unproven hypothesis of mind controlling the brain plasticity.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Dacia
  • 27-03-12

This book has it all

I love this book because it's so mentally stimulating and so well written. The book covers a broad range of topics in it's quest to describe neuroplasticity. This book gives an in-depth account of how scientists discovered neuroplasticity, the current theories about how neuroplasticity can be used in treatment, the concept of neuroplasticity and its connection to quantum physics and Buddhist meditation practices, and more. I find this book really intriguing, exciting, and interesting, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone curious about neuroplasticity and the biology of changing bad habits.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 22-10-13

Do Not Mistake The Message Here For Dualism!

This is not a throwback to the old mind/matter dualism of Descartes, though it does decidedly (and, I believe healthfully and rightly) break with some of the tenets of hardcore behaviorism and inflexible functionalism. In short, the authors do view the brain as the seat of thought and emotion and all lower and higher cognitive functions, but they view the mind as something other than "byproduct of a dynamic, like the noise that is emitted by a lawnmower," as some radicals have asserted. Rather, the mind is a Gestalt, a whole greater than the sum of its biological parts, a living dynamic with "a life of its own": and that Gestalt is something special and real--the minds, the personalities, the psychic beings that we are.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 13-05-13

Good Science plus a little religious magic

Most of this book (the actual science) was very interesting, with a lot of valid and important ideas about neuroplasticity.

If you have OCD or know someone who has read the same author’s Brain Lock (which has much of the practical information without the metaphysics). This book is good. the narration excellent and there is a short PDF is available with diagrams of the parts and uses of the brain and nerve cells if you are not already familiar with these.

The book is largely conversational and easy to listen to, but from time to time drops into metaphysical discussions. The last third the book takes off to a somewhat unscientific path attempting to demonstrate that the soul must exists and connects to the body via quantum effects. Having such ideas is not inherently unscientific, but, to be science a clear hypothesis should be stated along with an experiment differentiating the cases. Here the book is quite weak. The logic seems to be 1) We don’t understand consciousness 2) We don’t understand quantum effects 3) Quantum theory has elements of consciousness and randomness 4) The author’s religion (Buddhism) supports the idea of a non-brain mind learning to control the brain. Thus) mindfulness must control the brain via quantum effects through randomness. Now I believe consciousness is a product of quantum effects (as is everything else) but that does not imply the mind is separate from the brain. The brain seems quite capable of changing itself and capable of all the practical aspects of OCD treatments without resorting to magic.

34 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 01-12-12

Brain science made not exactly simple

Would you consider the audio edition of The Mind and the Brain to be better than the print version?

Although this book is full of great material increasing non-brain-scientists knowledge about what can go wrong in the brain and why mental disorders are,in fact, physical disorders, the audio version is not good. It sounds like the computer voice on my Kindle.

What other book might you compare The Mind and the Brain to and why?

Sharon Begley has written a lot about brain/Mind science, and she is extremely good at articulating issues that might leave us scratching our heads. I have enjoyed her other works that cover nearby areas very much. The information in this book is so important for therapists to know. It really is the century of the brain, and if we don't understand why things go wrong we will never get better at treating them. The research is piling up day by day, but its not getting into therapist training programs or continuing Ed. This book explains in detail how a person develops OCD and would be useful for people with this diagnosis, and for family members trying to understand the constant checking and washing. In addition, his truly helpful information about mindfulness in therapy could benefit anyone. Learning how to manage our thinking (thinking about our thinking) may be the most important mental wellness thing we can do for ourselves. And why aren't we teaching Mindfulness Meditation to our children???

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Monotonous voice, flat affect and very little variation, really almost a computer-like reader.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Hmmmm. Fantastic Voyage II - Into the Brain. Tag line: This time, its about the neural networks!

Any additional comments?

So much amazing information for the public to educate themselves about Brain Disorders. This is a really important book. Too bad the reading detracts from it.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • nerida
  • 16-02-12

Heavy at times but fabulous !

If you could sum up The Mind and the Brain in three words, what would they be?

Brilliant, thought provoking, a bit wafty

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

no

Any additional comments?

A wonderful book that will change the way you look at the world both inner and outer. It is heavy going at times and the writer sometimes seems to go on and on a bit, but overall I really loved it and have recommended it to my friends. If it gets a bit boring, stick with it because there are some really fabulous chapters.
I love books that change me- this did
I learnt a lot

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Elan Sun Star
  • 30-08-12

brilliant insights Mind -body Spirit Attention

If you could sum up The Mind and the Brain in three words, what would they be?

Mind body Spirit brain correlaries and the use of Intention and Attention to change intranced patterns and to creat altrnate results and states fof mind adn thus reality

What does Arthur Morey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I thought his reading was clear and insightful and well tempered

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

the last 1/4 Changing reality andinner and outer states thorugh the use of will and attention .

Any additional comments?

Excellent science but most of all the proof that we co create our reality and that reductionist materialism is aremnant of old non science.
the practical uses of intentional focus and willful use of dynamics to create alternate results and reality.
If you ar into the mind body spirit movement and or the brain sciences this gives you a great amount of ammo to prove that our intentions are powerful if we use various techniques.

15 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Dan
  • 28-08-15

I'll need to pay more attention next time.

great book with enough voice to keep an uneducated listener from dropping off. the audio chapters are different, and that is a little disappointing. but, I will need to listen and pay more attention when I listen to chapter 10 till the end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Yosemite
  • 25-04-14

Understand the casualties of scholar denialism?

Would you listen to The Mind and the Brain again? Why?

If you have no 'agenda', i.e. if you are open, repeated reading or listening will reveal deeper meaning, greater significance. If you think not, do it then, just to prove you are right.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Mind and the Brain?

The very long human history of retarding and destroying discoveries is objectively documented by many. Evidence in fascinating detail: "The Mind and the Brain" provides an insiders experience of a scientific revolution and the human causalities perpetrated by scholar denialism. One isn't required to have formulated a 'better' model before revealing the intellectual corruption of the existing one. Humans suffer and die when the various but small 'information mafia' succeed. This work points to objective data/findings from which rational and I would add, obvious arguments are made.

Have you listened to any of Arthur Morey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Arthur Morey's delivery is most agreeable for me. In fact, the best I've experienced so far.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The Scholars Holocaust

Any additional comments?

Do not permit any reviewer to pursuade you that this work has anything whatever to do with religion or your constructs of it. I would say, one who suggests so has (a) not read the book or (b) has made 'enemy' with what is, and conjured supporting attributes upon it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ben
  • 13-11-15

Mostly disappointing

Any additional comments?

The premise here is based on a very shaky link between quantum mechanics and the mind. It's an attempt to smuggle Cartesian dualism back into the world through the back door of physics. Most neuroscientists dismiss the quantum brain theory which boils down to the following claim: the mind is not produced by the brain but by quantum states. This borders on magic. Apart from the first couple of chapters on mindfulness and attention, which I found interesting, the author creates an argument that is a huge stretch. He delves into enormous and unnecessary detail, like an account of animal cruelty in a lab. I don't recommend this book. Another Audible book - The Ravenous Brain - does a great job debunking the quantum mind theory, and that's where I would direct other Audible clients.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 20-02-18

Worth reading, despite the religious undertones

Listening to this book gave me a lot of conflicted feelings. I had high hopes for this book initially, as it seemed to be offering techniques to deal with OCD thinking, which is something I have been looking to find. I was not disappointed in that regard. Unfortunately, throughout the book the author also attempts to refute the views of mainstream scientists, and prove the existence of imaginary concepts like "free will." Early on I began to realize that this was going to be a difficult book for me to listen to with "open ears." I was suspicious that there was a religious thing behind it all.

Jeffrey Schwartz basically sets out to disprove “materialism,” and convince the reader that the 99% of the scientific community which follows that concept are incorrect. I myself am very comfortable with materialism, and do not want to hear a long argument against it.

That may seem closed minded, and perhaps it is, but Schwartz honestly doesn’t do much to help himself. His dogmatic tone—especially when you consider that he’s saying things that are almost anti-science at this point—is off-putting. In addition, Schwartz provides ample evidence, throughout the book, that almost no one agrees with him. I realize that a large theme for the book is that Schwartz, like others before him, is saying things that place him in a very small minority, but he really doesn’t end up proving that he’s one of those geniuses who actually do prove to be right when everyone else is wrong. So in the end, the one thing that he convinces the reader of is that all of science disagrees with him.

The idea that our thoughts and feelings are a result of neurons and chemical reactions just doesn’t bother me. It does bother Schwartz however, and that’s really the crux of the matter. This is very personal for him. Indeed, from almost the opening paragraph Schwartz injects his own personal, first person thoughts and experiences into the narrative. Now, authors often do this in a preface or introduction, or perhaps in the afterward. But Schwartz does it throughout. The book really is autobiographical to some extent.

And the reader can tell from very early on that we’re dealing with a situation where a very smart person has decided not to accept certain ideas, simply because they don’t like them. Schwartz does not want to think that things like love for a spouse or a child are based solely on microscopic goings on inside the brain. He doesn’t like that reality, so he has determined to find a way for it not to be so. This is a pretty constant theme throughout the book, and is going to be a source of annoyance for readers who don’t want to hear about that. The interesting thing is that apart from this, the book is actually really, really good.

It wasn’t just that I was resistant to Schwartz’ contrarian viewpoints, I’m also just not at all interested in them. He insists upon differentiating between "the mind" and "the brain” (hence the title of the book). This seems pointless to me, because whatever the “mind” is, it comes about due to the brain. There’s no mind without the brain. Schwartz makes a huge deal out of the fact that even though scientists know what neurons cause consciousness, they don’t know exactly how they do so. I have no interest in that. So there are things going on that we don’t exactly understand: big deal. I think we all accept that.

The author spends much of the book trying to convince the reader that because people can train themselves to think differently, this proves the existence of "volition" or something he describes as “free will.” This is, however, irrelevant to the argument of free will. It's pretty much common knowledge at this point that people have the power to use mental tactics in order to effect their bodies (and that other people can help guide them in doing this). Jeffrey Schwartz seems to think this is some startling breakthrough that changes everything, when it's old news. More importantly, proving that people can change how they think does not prove “free will,” in the real sense of that phrase. Free will is the religious concept that everyone is responsible for their own actions and therefore can be considered good or evil and be punished or rewarded. How on Earth is this proven by the mere fact that through therapy patients with OCD can gain better control over their compulsions? The real point in the free will argument is that people don’t decide what their DNA is going to be. They don’t determine what tendencies they are going to have. For a 9-year old girl who for some reason is a spoiled brat just like her aunt and her grandmother, free will would be saying that genetics and things like that are not responsible for this, the kid is just being a brat.

During the lengthy first chapter I kept thinking that maybe I didn’t understand the argument he was making. It seemed like he was trying to point out that there are things science can’t explain. Duh. I thought maybe the argument was over my head and I simply didn’t know what it was yet. And I was able to hold on to that hope because Schwartz moves away from the free will thing and onto more interesting subjects in the next few chapters.

Chapter 2 describes fascinating experiments on monkeys. There is some excellent stuff concerning the orbital frontal cortex. But then Schwartz gets back into the free will thing. It’s really a shame that he uses that term, and not others, but I would come to realize that there was a reason behind that. I could never really shake the suspicion that there was some sort of a religious motive here. I must admit that this suspicion became stronger when Schwartz included commentary from “Dr. Benjamin Carson.” This book was published long before most of the country had ever heard of the famous pediatric brain surgeon. At the time the book was written, almost any reader would have thought, “Wow! A pediatric brain surgeon, that’s pretty compelling testimony.” I just had to think that there might be something else going on.

Next the author goes on to describe the work he has done treating OCD and Tourette’s patients. This was all I had hoped for. It really was great and has proven helpful to me.

Chapter 4 is made up of a long biology lesson that readers may have to listen to more than once to keep up.

This middle portion of the book really is excellent. Schwartz gives a lot of great information on the history of philosophy and science. He explains that the brain continues to develop into early adulthood. There is great stuff here about neuroplasticity. The author gives a lot of good info on OCD, Tourette’s, and depression.

The highlight of the book is Schwartz’ recounting of the Silver Springs Macaque controversy.

Schwartz talks about the part of the brain that controls directional skills and how that area is enlarged in taxi drivers. That’s the kind of thing we came for.

Then there is a great chapter on quantum physics.

After a long break, we get back to free will late in the book, and the return is unwelcome. Unfortunately, Schwartz can’t help bringing in religion. It’s not like he hits you over the head with it, but it’s there. Schwartz is careful to include things about Buddhism, so it’s not all coming from the western religion view. He finally gets around to saying that what he really means is that we have “free won’t.” In other words, we can’t help our thoughts and urges but can help whether we act on it.

First off, all this does is reiterate what anyone who has ever gone to a counselor instinctively believes: that there are ways they might be able to help themselves. This is not in any way profound. More importantly, putting all of this stress on “control,” is obviously a moral thing, and it’s clear that again Schwartz is trying to find a way to make sense of the world in a way that satisfies him.

Schwartz goes so far as to reference the Ten Commandments, pointing out that they mostly concern actions and not thoughts. Here we’re really getting into dangerous territory. I mean, I understand that much of the world is still religious, but I would think that most people who purchase a book called “The Mind and the Brain,” are not going to expect the author to mention the Ten Commandments as a reason why his ideas make sense. And it doesn’t matter how many times he mentions Buddhism; if the reader was just waiting around to hear their judeo-Christian beliefs validated, the damage is done.

And of course this all still doesn’t solve the problem that free will/won’t is impacted by tendencies, and those tendencies are based on DNA, and development, and environment; none of which are chosen by the individual.

Towards the end things get extremely complex, and again, readers may want to go over the last chapter a few times.

Schwartz explicitly states towards the end that the idea that “the brain is always going to do what it was always going to do” is wrong. Unfortunately for him, he has done nothing to back this statement up. In fact, he’s hardly even been dealing with that subject. No one doubts the idea that cognitive therapy can work. But what of the individual who can’t receive cognitive therapy? What about the large percentage of people who get no benefit from therapy? You can put someone through a weightlifting regiment and they can become stronger. However, there are some kids who will find exercise to be a natural habit, and some other kids will be lazy. That’s what we mean by free will. The idea that doing things like concentrating on something can change the brain has naught to do with the judeo-christian concept of free will.

Upon finishing the book, I felt compelled to further investigate the author and this book. I often research an author or book before listening to it, to make sure I have an idea of what I’m getting into and what biases they might have. I rarely do more research after a book because I still want to be able to judge for myself what I think, and not be further influenced by other opinions. This time, however, I felt I really needed to.

I discovered that as I had suspected all along, there was indeed a religious thing going on. Schwartz has been quoted as saying that religion and science should not be separated. That statement alone, is so at odds with my worldview there really would be no way for me to respect his opinions on anything in regards to that subject. I should have known when he had quotes from Carson in the book. But I discovered that it was actually worse than even I had imagined. It turns out that Schwartz believes in intelligent design and panders to creationists.

No matter how smart someone is, they may be incapable of dealing with reality as it is, and will therefore do anything to hold on to a belief in the way they wish things were. Obstinately holding on to beliefs which have been proven wrong often has nothing to do with education or even intelligence, but instead is contingent on a person’s ability to deal with reality as it is. If someone cannot deal with the way things are they will go to extreme lengths to hold on to a belief in the way they wish things were, even if they are in the top 1% of intelligence.