Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and HealthDr. Caroline LeafBaker Books / 2015 / Trade Paperback$9.99 Retail:4 Stars Out Of 5 16 Reviews
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Dr. Karen1 Stars Out Of 5Terrible Mental Health Advice Meets Terrible Science Meets Terrible Theology Meets Terrible WritingAugust 17, 2019Dr. KarenQuality: 1Value: 1Meets Expectations: 1I apologize for the lengthy review, but I have never read a book that made me so angry!
This book was recommended to me by someone who thought I would love it because it combines science with Scripture and addresses mental health, all of which are very important to me. The problem is that it is terrible science combined with terrible theology combined with terrible mental health advice, all wrapped up in terrible writing.
If you have a friend who struggles with mental illness, PLEASE DO NOT recommend this book to them. In her first chapter, she says that treating depression with antidepressants is "biblically and scientifically incorrect." She repeatedly makes the claim that "75 to 98 percent of mental and physical illness comes from one's thought life," citing references that say no such thing but implying that if anyone struggles with ANY health issue, mental or physical, it is probably their own fault for not thinking better. She says "wrong choices cause brain damage." She cites a study on adolescents with schizophrenia symptoms to claim that if "we don't help our children and adolescents manage stress, we are potentially causing brain damage," ignoring her own earlier references to studies showing that the brains of people at high risk for schizophrenia are different from infancy (so their "brain damage" resulting in schizophrenia is not caused by teenage stress). She also blames PTSD on the person who has it because they "did not choose, process, or react correctly to the event" while they were being traumatized. Her mental health advice does far more harm than good to people who are already struggling with something they feel is largely out of their control.
Dr. Leaf is not a mental health expert, nor is she the cognitive neuroscientist that she tries to pass herself of as, nor is she an expert in gene expression or quantum physics, both of which get entire chapters in her book. She is a speech pathologist turned inspirational speaker/writer. I am not a neuroscientist or an expert in quantum physics, but I do have a B.S. degree in psychology and chemistry (including a full year of physical chemistry/quantum physics), and a Ph.D. in biology, and I can tell you that she has a fundamental misunderstanding of nearly every field on which she writes. She conflates "thoughts" with neurons, when thoughts are actually the results of the combined activity of multiple connected neurons (in a way that we do not fully understand). She says that neurotransmitters carry electrical impulses, when neurotransmitters actually exist because most neurons CAN'T transmit electrical impulses to each other, so they use chemical communication to fill the gap. She describes memories as branches (dendrites) that are glued (cellular adhesion molecule?) on a tree (neuron) that fall off when a toxic memory is destroyed; elsewhere, she describes memories as proteins that denature when we forget. In reality, memories, like thoughts, are the result of the ACTIVITY of connected neurons; learning occurs when those connected neurons increase the number of connections between themselves, and forgetting is the result of a decrease in connections, NOT denatured proteins, NOT dendrites coming "unglued" and falling off of a neuron (which doesn't happen at all, and isn't what CAM even does). Her only claims to being a "cognitive neuroscientist" are her master's thesis, resulting in only ONE almost-scientific article, describing ONE patient with traumatic brain injury that was helped with Dr. Leaf's combination of borrowed therapeutic techniques; and her doctoral dissertation on the "science of thought," which resulted in only ONE descriptive article that has been cited by exactly ZERO other authors. Her theory was completely ignored by the field of cognitive neuroscience and every other field.
She has an entire chapter on how we can alter gene expression with our thoughts, but she makes fundamental errors in describing how gene expression even works. She refers to RNA as "a type of protein that...makes a photocopy" of DNA. RiboNucleic Acid is a nucleic acid, NOT a protein, as any student in Biology 101 could tell you. RNA does not photocopy DNA; it IS the copy, more accurately, a negative. She cites the research of a Nobel prize winner to say that we can "choose" to switch on a gene that will cause the growth of new protein branches and store our memories (again getting the neuroscience wrong). What she doesn't mention is that the work she cites was on habituation learning by sensory neurons in the abdomen of a sea slug. It had NOTHING to do with conscious thought, episodic memory, or choice. She even says "thought networks pass through the sperm and the ova." Seriously?!?
She has an entire chapter on quantum physics, but she doesn't even get the definition right, saying that "quantum means 'energy,'" when quantum actually means "discrete quantity," and is more often used in reference to mass than to energy. She largely, if not entirely, borrows her ideas from a philosophy paper to make claims that "the basic ingredients of quantum physics are paying attention, thinking and choosing, and consequence" and that quantum mechanics proves and measures free will. The "basic ingredients" of quantum physics are actually subatomic particles, which are the only things that quantum mechanics measures. She defines the Quantum Zeno Effect, which has to do with holding a subatomic particle in a particular state by continuous measurement, as "the repeated effort that causes learning to take place." She also says that "there is no space-time dimension." I can't even...
As a scientist, I am incredibly frustrated by her mangling of nearly all scientific details, but as a Christian, I am even more frustrated by her blatant distortion of Scripture to say what she wants. Her favorite verse is Prov. 23:7, but she takes it COMPLETELY out of context. What she wants you to think the verse means: "As he thinks in his heart, so is he." (Prov. 23:7a, NKJV) What the verse, in context, actually says: "Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, FOR HE IS LIKE ONE WHO IS INWARDLY CALCULATING. 'Eat and drink,' he says to you, but his heart is not with you." (Prov. 23:6-7, ESV) In reference to the woman who bled for 12 years until she touched the hem of Jesus' garment, Dr. Leaf praises her for applying Gen. 11:6[b], "And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (ESV), leaving off the first half of the verse and the context that this statement was a REPRIMAND by God to the builders of the tower of Babel. She also makes pantheistic claims at least three times "we are all part of God," "entanglement with God," and "we are part of him." Her entire book is based on the premise that we can bring ourselves "ever closer in alignment to our original design of perfection" through positive thinking with a little Jesus sprinkled in. She twists nearly all of her Scripture references to put the focus on us rather than God, and she never acknowledges that we are sinners in need of salvation by grace.
Finally, as an academic, I was frustrated initially by poor academic writing, taking information from her sources out of context to mean something different than what the authors really said, even citing sources that said nothing at all about the claims she attached the citations to. But then I realized that some of her sloppy citation was actually the result of plagiarism, copying someone else's words (and citations) without referencing her actual source or acknowledging that it was a quote and not her own words. In comparing her book to just EIGHT of her references, I found FIFTY cases of plagiarism, along with ELEVEN instances of paraphrasing another text without citing it. I have contacted the publisher about the plagiarism, but in the meantime, please invest your money elsewhere!!!
Lisa C.1 Stars Out Of 5So disappointed!May 9, 2019Lisa C.This book was great until you get to the 21-day detox part. I finished the book feeling I had no real idea of what I was suppose to do, as though a few chapters were missing. I loved the whole concept using God's word to change your toxic thoughts. However, I do feel some explanations or examples would be so helpful. I hope the author, who seems wonderful, considers updating the book with examples on how to apply the plan. A couple reviews on other sites mentioned the same issuer not understanding how to apply. Dr. Leaf please consider updating this book. ~Blessings
ABBA'S prideAge: 35-44Gender: Female4 Stars Out Of 5It's great!!May 8, 2019ABBA'S prideAge: 35-44Gender: FemaleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 3The book is good. Although it has a lot of scientific terms which makes it a little bit hard for a lame man to understand or flow with, i literally jumped those pages while i was reading, apart from that, its a book i would recommend for anyone that needs a change in their life.
But let me warn you, you need to be interested and focused , the book won't do the magic without your conscious effort.
Mel5 Stars Out Of 5Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness , Thinking, and HealthSeptember 30, 2017MelQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Excellent guide and tool to battling the mind in or broken world!
Lynn5 Stars Out Of 5Title fits.June 6, 2017LynnQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5The book is right on. I found excellant insights. I'd read some on nueroplasticity after my spinal cord injury but had not found a book to tie it to the Bible. This book does, I'm thankful. It gives the added advantage of being written by a Christian. Thank you Dr. Leaf!