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Norman Doidge

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Norman Doidge

Norman Doidge
Born Toronto, Ontario
Occupation Physician, Psychiatrist, Writer
Nationality Canadian
Citizenship Canada
Alma mater University of Toronto
Genres Non-fiction, Film

Norman Doidge MD, FRCP(C) is a Canadian-born psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself describes some of the latest developments in neuroscience, and became a New York Times and international bestseller.


Doidge studied literary classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto and graduated “With High Distinction.” After winning the E.J. Pratt Prize for Poetry at age 19, and other literary awards for poetry, Doidge was given early recognition by literary critic Northrop Frye, who wrote that his work was “really remarkable… haunting and memorable.” He obtained his medical degree at the University of Toronto, then moved to New York, where he did a residency in psychiatry and degree in psychoanalysis at Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, and the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. This was followed by a two-year Columbia University/National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellowship, training in empirical science techniques.


Returning to his native Toronto, Doidge served as Head of the Psychotherapy Centre and the Assessment Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (now part of CAMH). He is currently on Faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry, and Research Faculty at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, Columbia University, New York. His first psychiatric publication, published while still in his training, integrated neuroscience findings and subjective experience, and was entitled "Appetitive pleasure states: A bio-psychoanalytic model of the pleasure threshold, mental representation and defense." In : The Role of Affect in Motivation, Development and Adaptation Volume I: Pleasure Beyond the Pleasure Principle ed. by R. Glick MD, and S. Bone, MD, Yale University Press (138-173), 1990. This paper anticipated his integrative approach to psychiatry. Early psychiatric research studies and publications were conducted as part of a Columbia University team investigating the reliability of instruments used in the diagnosis of personality disorders, and demonstrating the problem of psychiatric comorbidity, describing how supposedly different psychiatric disorders often occur together.

In the 1990s, Doidge authored empirically based standards and guidelines for the practice of intensive psychotherapy that have been used in Canada and Australia. These were published in the "Standards and Guidelines for the Psychotherapies" edited by Cameron, Deadman and Ennis. In 1993 he presented research into the effectiveness of intensive psychoanalytic psychotherapy and the patients who undergo it at the White House in Washington, D.C..[1][2] His research from that time, including studies of clinicians and their patients in intensive psychoanalytic psychotherapy in Canada, US, and Australia has been credited with helping to keep intensive psychotherapy as part of the health care systems in Canada and Australia. In the late 1990s, he increasingly turned his attention to how to integrate recent discoveries in neuroscience with existing psychiatric, psychological and psychoanalytic knowledge. He has often been cited as an expert in neuroplasticity, psychiatry and developments in neurscience in the newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, The Times, Telegraph, Scientific American Mind, Newsweek,Psychology Today, Melbourne Age.[3]


Doidge has written over 170 articles, a combination of academic, scientific and popular pieces. Early in his career he published poetry. Doidge has been sole author of academic papers on neuroplasticity, human limitations and notions of perfectibility, psychotherapy treatment outcomes, dreams about animals, Schizoid personality disorder and trauma,[4] psychoanalysis and neuroscience, e.g., a popular article he wrote for Maclean's magazine in which he argues, using empirical studies, that understanding unconscious thought is relevant in modern day psychiatry and psychology.[5]

Doidge was editor of Books in Canada: The Canadian Review of Books from 1995-8, and editor at large for several years after that. From 1998-2001, he wrote a column, “On Human Nature,” in the National Post. His series of literary portraits of exceptional people at moments of transformation appeared in Saturday Night Magazine, and he won four National Magazine Awards, including the President’s Medal for the best article published in Canada in the year 2000. The judges described his account of an intimate conversation with Saul Bellow, called “Love, Friendship and the Art of Dying,” as “brilliantly sustained from beginning to end…[a] multi-levelled piece about writing, friendship, life and death [that] opens a door into the complex lives of two extraordinary literary figures.”

The Brain That Changes Itself

In this book, Doidge demonstrates evidence for, and actual applications of neuroplasticity, including many case studies of people with previously incurable disorders as they are being helped by neuroplastic interventions. He showed people with learning disorders of many kinds, blindness, balance and sensory disorders, strokes, cerebral palsy, chronic pain, chronic depression and anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, being helped. Doidge coined the term, "neuroplastician" to describe the scientists and clinicians who have extended our understanding of neuroplasticity. He also coined the term "plastic paradox," to describe the fact that plasticity gives rise to both flexible and rigid behaviors, to bring attention to the fact that there are many disorders that are the product of our plasticity. The book gives many examples of recent research in the field, and includes 87 pages of scientific references, uncommon in a book that also has become an international and New York Times Bestseller. Reviews[6] have been positive from academics in the neuroplasticity field, with frequent praise of Doidge's writing style. Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp stated it is "A rich banquet of brain-mind plasticity, communicated in a brilliantly clear writing style." The Brain That Changes Itself has been translated into 18 languages so far. It was the #1 bestseller in both Canada and Australia. It was one of the top ten bestselling science books of 2008.[7] The book became the all-time bestseller at both the Sydney Writers' Festival, and the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Film and television

In July 2009, Doidge co-wrote and appeared in an award winning on TVO. He appears on radio and television programs, and has been on PBS, NPR, CBS, CNN, ABC, TVO, CTV, CBC among others.

Recent keynotes

The Gairdner Foundation/Graham Boeckh Foundation Public Lecture, Montreal, 2011;[13] McLuhan Galaxy Celebrations: Tracce Del Futuro “Traces of the Future” Keynote Address: Cambiano i media, cambiano il cervello Universita La Splenza, Via Salaria, Rome, Italy, 2011;[14] Plenary Presentation, Neuroscience Research Institute, Peking University East West Conference, Beijing, 2010; Brisbane Writers Festival, 2010 Brisbane Australia; Keynote, Goethe University, Frankfurt, 2009; International Society for Neurofeedback Research, Denver, 2010;[15] United Nations, New York, 2009; Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Dublin, Ireland 2009; London School of Economics, 2009;[16] Royal Society of the Arts, London England 2009;[17] Sydney Writers' Festival, Sydney Australia, 2009; Mind Science Foundation Distinguished Speakers Series, San Antonio Texas, 2008; Genoa Science Festival, Genoa Italy, 2008; Harvard-MIT sponsored conference Learning & the Brain, Cambridge, MA 2008.


2008 The Ken Book Award, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for an “outstanding literary work contributing to better understanding of mental illness as a neurobiological disease.”; 2008 Mary S. Sigourney Award Trust, in International Psychoanalysis, “recognizing significant contributions to the field of psychoanalysis.”; 2007, The Brain That Changes Itself chosen as one of the "Guardian" (UK) best books of the year; 2007,The Brain That Changes Itself chosen one of the top ten science books by; 2007, chosen one of the top books of the year by "Slate Magazine" (Internet, U.S.); 2007, one of the best books of the year by The "Globe and Mail"; 2007, top books of the year by the "National Post"; 2007, one of the top books of the year, by; 2007, chosen by Scientific American as a Main Selection; 2002 Winner of the National Magazine Award, Gold Award, for the Best Profile published in Canada; 2001 Winner of the Canadian National Magazine Award President’s Medal, for the best non-fiction article published in Canada in the year 2000, “Love, Friendship and the Art of Dying- A conversation with Saul Bellow.”;[18] 2000, National Magazine Award, Gold Award, for the Best Profile published in Canada in the year; 1998 Winner of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Committee on Research and Special Training (CORST) Essay Prize in Psychoanalysis and Culture; 2008 Elected to Membership of the American College of Psychoanalysts for “many outstanding achievements in psychiatry and psychoanalysis.”; 1997–present "Canadian Who’s Who"; 1995 Gold Award, Prix du Magazine Canadien-National Magazine Awards, Personal Journalism; 1994 First Place Winner, Personal Essay, C.B.C./Saturday Night Literary Award[19] now called the “Canadian Literary Award.” This award has been considered the most important literary competition in Canada for an unpublished literary work.

External links

Norman Doidge Official Website Link label

Norman Doidge TV Interview With Allan Gregg Link label

Norman Doidge Radio Interview With Shelagh Rogers, CBC Radio Link label


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