This doctor made a blind man see and an autistic boy speak

Psychiatrist Norman Doidge, who is on the faculty of the University of Toronto, uses sensory stimulation "to change the structure and function of brain circuits" in people with chronic pain, autism, and Parkinson's. Manuela Hoelterhoff of Bloomberg Business interviewed him about his work, which Doidge has written about in his new book, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity.

brains-way-of-healingYou describe a doctor with chronic pain who cures himself by visualization. Can an ordinary person do this?

Yes. Dr. Moskowitz knew that there's not one pain center in the brain, there are about a dozen and most of these centers don't just process pain, they process something else. One area that regulates pain is also involved in processing mental imagery. Moskowitz knew that when we go from feeling acute pain to chronic pain, about 20 percent of that pain and imagery map is hijacked for pain processing.

When we're not in pain, none of the pain areas fires up in the brain. When we're in acute pain, these areas fire like pinpricks. When it's in chronic pain, these same areas are firing like huge supernovas.

So how did he stop the pain?

He forced himself to visualize imagery whenever he was in pain. It didn't matter what he imagined, as long he engaged that map for imagery instead of pain. For the first two weeks, he only had a few seconds of time when he wasn't in pain. It took several months to have significant pain-free periods and by the end of the year, he was completely pain-free and off all medication.

This Doctor Made a Blind Man See and an Autistic Boy Speak