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How the Brain Can be Strengthened?

In her book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young recalls her own painful struggle with a disabling learning disorder that caused teachers to label her “stupid, difficult and stubborn”. 

Interweaving her own powerful personal story with portrayals of the transformations others have made using her groundbreaking exercises, she introduces readers to the heartbreaks, triumphs, and clinical mysteries she has encountered during her career – and sends a message of hope to children and adults struggling to overcome mild to severe learning disabilities.

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain Book Cover

Reviewers Have Written

Arrowsmith-Young explains some of the most complex neurological concepts in a personal and breathtakingly simple way.

Readers of ‘The Woman Who Changed Her Brain’ will find the author’s writing style lucid and her personal story inspiring. Students of personality, language, learning and teaching all will benefit from this exciting book about the miracle of the human brain.

It's a fascinating book that speaks to the lag between exciting developments in brain science, and existing educational practices.

People with learning disabilities have long been told they must learn to compensate for their deficits, because they will never improve. In The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young offers her own story, and those of her students, to refute that conventional wisdom.

It will open your mind to new possibilities on how to deal with 'traffic jams in the brain.

Arrowsmith-Young has been able to describe, in a poignant and often unforgettable way, what it feels like to have a devastating learning disorder––but also what it’s like to leave it behind. Most everyone reading this book will find in its unique case histories, a new way to think about people’s cognitive difficulties in coping with the world. Here is an opportunity to understand the mental glitches and deeper problems of their own or of others in a new way.

An inspiring, instructive life story.

Arrowsmith-Young's Vision for Education

The first edition of the book ends with Arrowsmith-Young’s vision for education:  

“My vision is for all schools to become places where children can go to strengthen their brains so they can learn effectively and efficiently. Cognitive exercises, using the principles of neuroplasticity, will become an integral part of each school’s curriculum. In this way, learning problems can be addressed early, as part of regular curriculum, and students without cognitive deficits will all benefit from cognitive stimulation.”

A Note to Readers from the Author: Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

Dear Reader,

We have always thought that “our brain shapes us.” When I wrote this book, I wanted to demonstrate how “we can shape our brains.”

Imagine having a brain that is capable and incapable at the same time. Growing up, I had severe learning disabilities. I lived in a world that was confusing and incomprehensible. As I was to later understand, a critical part of my brain was not working properly, the end result being that all language was experienced as foreign and my translator was broken. Finding connections between things and ideas was a challenge, and telling time, for instance, was impossible—I couldn’t grasp the relationship between the big hand and the little hand on a clock. I could not understand cause and effect, so felt buffeted by random events, not being able to see the ‘why’ of things. And this was the 1950’s and 60’s when the brain was viewed as unchangeable, so I was told I had best learn to live with my limitations. I walked around in a fog, relying on my excellent memory and my drive and determination to find an answer to what plagued me.

As a young graduate student in psychology, frustrated with the enormous expenditure of energy required to work around my problems and with very limited success, I came across the research of the great Russian neuropsychologist Alexander Luria, who studied soldiers who had suffered head wounds. Using Luria’s detailed descriptions of the functions of various brain regions, I identified 19 unique learning dysfunctions. And after reading the research of Mark Rosenzweig who demonstrated that stimulation could improve the brains of rats, I theorized that it might be possible to transform weak areas of the brain through repetitive and targeted cognitive exercises. With much reading and an intuitive understanding of the brain’s functioning from Luria’s descriptions, I invented a series of cognitive exercises to address my learning difficulties. This was in 1978, long before the concept of “neuroplasticity” was widely understood. At the time, the scientific community believed this kind of transformation was impossible, but the exercises did indeed radically improve my functioning in very specific ways. Today, this notion of brain plasticity—which I began exploring several decades ago—is established wisdom in neuroscience.

In the past decade, the idea that self-improvement can happen in the brain has caught hold and inspired new hope. Assessment measures and cognitive exercises have been developed to identify and then strengthen weak cognitive capacities that underlie a range of specific learning difficulties. From these developments and with my vision for this program to be widely available to all struggling students, the Arrowsmith Program and School was born and now organizations worldwide have implemented the program.

In my book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, I combine my own personal journey with case histories from four decades as an investigator and educator, unraveling the mystery of how our brain mediates our functioning in the world. This book details the brain’s incredible ability to change and overcome learning problems and deepens our understanding of the workings of the brain and its profound impact on how we participate in the world.

My work has been and continues to be a labour of love and I am honored to share with you through this book my journey and life’s work. I sincerely hope you enjoy this book and that it will inspire you to change the way you think about the mind.

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young
Where to Buy, Read or Listen

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

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Praise for The Woman Who Changed Her Brain:

Arrowsmith-Young explains some of the most complex neurological concepts in a personal and breathtakingly simple way.

The Globe and Mail

Hers was a struggle between despair and determination. Determination won.

Michael Schulder
CNN Radio News, USA

Truly Heroic, on par with the achievement of Helen Keller

Norman Doidge, M.D
Author of ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’

Arrowsmith-Young’s poignant and uplifting book about her transformation from a child born with severe learning disabilities to a dynamic pioneer in cognitive education offers hope to anyone who has ever struggled with a learning disorder, brain trauma, ADD, or stroke. By her own fierce determination and passionate desire to learn, this remarkable woman changed her own brain and has since helped countless others to change theirs. This is an important book.

Mira Bartók
New York Times bestselling author of The Memory Palace

This is a riveting study of both neuroscience and human determination.

Andrew Solomon
Author of The Noonday Demon and Far From the Tree

If you have a son, daughter, a parent, a spouse, or a brain, this is a must-read book. It will open your mind to new possibilities on how to deal with ‘traffic jams in the brain’

Alvaro Fernandez
CEO & Co-Founder, SharpBrains

This is a poignant book about two people who connected across continents and generations – a Canadian woman with an unusual cognitive makeup, and the great Russian neuropsychologist Alexander Luria whose writings gave Barbara Arrowsmith the tools to change her own life and the lives of her many students. Moving, insightful and empowering!

Elkhonon Goldberg, Neuropsychologist
Author of The Wisdom Paradox and The New Executive Brain

This is a book of significant scientific importance as a paradigmatic example of applied scientific research. The Woman Who Changed Her Brain is a wonderful achievement, and it should be carefully read by all people with an interest both in enhancing their own brain function and in enabling loved ones to rewire their own brains as well.

Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., Research Psychiatrist, UCLA
Author of Brain Lock, You are Not Your Brain, and The Mind & The Brain

The Woman Who Changed Her an introduction of how to blend the science of neuroplasticity and special education to understand and guide individuals into a way of thinking that helps them succeed academically and professionally. For anyone who wonders how to reach the children that beat to the rhythm of their own drums, this book is a good place to start figuring out what might (or might not) be going on somewhere on the cortex of their brains.

Teachers College Record
The Voice of Scholarship in Education

...filled with inspiring stories of pioneering brain transformation.

Herald Sun

If you or anyone you know has a learning disability, you will be riveted by the author’s journey.

Huffington Post

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain grabbed me by the lapels and shook me.

Actionable Books


India Today


The Post and Courier


The Toronto Star



A groundbreaking, widely praised and enthralling book.

The Guardian
United Kingdom


Daily Mail
United Kingdom

Exciting and hopeful

The Age

A compelling and enlightening book about the brain and its potential.

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