Understanding Brain Plasticity is Today’s Moral Imperative (5 MUST-read books for 2018)

We are the most nurture-dependent species that has ever existed on the planet.

This means that our brains are not just hardwired from birth. They are literally, physically, neurologically, moment-by-moment, formed and built by our experiences.

The more we learn about the brain’s plasticity, the less society can let themselves off the hook for not ensuring the safety and nurturing of our young.

We must stop acting as though behavior problems and mental illness are things that occur in isolation. We are social animals and what happens to us socially affects our brains, minds and bodies.


Agency is the belief that we have what it takes to change, to grow, evolve and ‘figure things out’. Understanding the malleability of our brain increases our sense of agency – not just as individuals, but who we are as a society and as a species.

We all play a role in how we are shaping each other’s brain architecture:
parents to children, teachers to students, leaders to employees and vice versa.

If you are an educator, social worker, parent or leader, please make 2018 a year where you learn more about neuroplasticity, the effects of trauma and adversity, and the influences of early childhood experience on our brain’s architecture.


“Our great challenge
is to apply the lessons of neural plasticity,
the flexibility of brain circuits,
to rewire the brains and re-organize the minds of people
who have been programmed by life itself
to experience others as threats
and themselves as helpless.”

– Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., The Body Keeps the Score



Here are five MUST-READ books to get you started:

Neuroplasticity (2016) by Moheb Costandi, Molecular and Developmental Neurobiologist, turned science writer. MIT Press 2016

The Pocket Guide to the PolyVagal TheoryThe transformative power of feeling safe, (2017) by Stephen Porges, distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at their Best and Worst, (2017) by Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology, neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University.

The Body Keeps the Score (2014), by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, former Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry, Founder and Medical Director of the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute.

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World (2011), by David Deutsch, physicist at the University of Oxford, visiting professor in the Department of Atomic and Laser Physics at the Centre for Quantum Computation (CQC) in the Clarendon Laboratory of the University of Oxford.



I’m sneaking in three more book suggestions specifically for educators, parents and anyone involved in teaching the next generation (because growth mindset won’t accomplish what we hope it will if what and how we teach kids won’t help them thrive.)

Why Our Children Can’t Read, by Diane McGuiness, PhD, foreword by Steven Pinker

Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, by Dana Suskind, MD

Navigating the Social World: What Infants, Children, and Other Species Can Teach Us, Edited by MahzarinR. Banaji & Susan A. Gelman (part of the Oxford Series in Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience)

#growth mindset


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