Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Rewired Brain by Dr. Ski Chilton with Dr. Margaret Rukstalis and A. J. Gregory

Scientists used to think that when neural pathways were made, they were permanent. We now know that the brain is capable of being changed. It has plasticity. We can literally rewire it.

The basis of Chilton's book is a mind theory known as dual process reasoning. It provides a practical framework, Chilton says, to describe our actions and feelings. He describes two systems of thinking. System 1 is always on and we can't stop or edit the signals. It is controlled by our unconscious fears and instincts and is highly influenced by experiences from childhood. System 2 is more deliberate and logical. It is responsible for conscious thought and reasoning. System 2 is where we reflect God's image and can have a relationship with Him. It allows for self-reflection and the making of moral decisions. It can have control over System 1 but that requires effort and the use of disciplines.

Much of this book is about the two systems, how they work, and the results they produce. Chilton also shares many of his own experiences. After two failed marriages and suffering from high blood pressure and depression, he was prompted to study the brain. He found this model to be the most important discovery of his life. (36)

Chilton believes “surrendering your System 1 dysfunctions, your old way of living and thinking, to God . . . provides the critical mechanism that makes brain rewiring possible.” (239) He suggests the journey “will include a great deal of contemplative prayer and meditation” as you build new thought patterns, co-creating along with God. (242) The importance of forgiveness is emphasized too. He suggests finding professional help as many issues are deeper than what this book addresses.

Chilton has done a good job of explaining behavior and why the brain needs to be rewired. While there is a plan for rewiring included at the end of the book, it seems more like an exercise in self-discovery than actual brain rewiring. He does say that these last chapters in the book are just a preliminary road map for the journey. I have read other books on brain plasticity that have been more practical in their exercises and techniques offered.

Chilton reminds us that he is not a licensed counselor. He has written this book from his research and personal experience. I recommend this book to those who are looking for a model explaining dysfunctional behavior. I also recommend the book to those who are looking for a process of self discovery. If you are looking to seriously rewire your brain, you will find only the beginning of the journey here.

Food for thought: “Rewiring our minds takes months, even years.” (247-8)

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Ski Chilton is a professor in the department of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. He has authored or coauthored more than 130 scientific articles and four books. He lives in North Carolina. You can find out more at https://drskichilton.com/.
Margaret Rukstalis is an addiction psychiatrist who has studied the brain and behavior for over twenty-five years. She is currently on faculty at Wake Forest School of Medicine. She lives in North Carolina.
A. J. Gregory is the author of two books and has partnered with others to write memoirs and self-help books. She lives in New Jersey.

Baker Books, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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