We employed to believe our brains couldn’t be changed. Now we believe they can – if we want it enough. But is that true? Will Storr wades via the facts and fiction for Mosaic science.

Dido, often scoring some dark issues… (credit: Flickr user: Dennis Brekke)

For years she had attempted to be the ideal wife and mother but now, divorced, with two sons, obtaining gone by means of an additional break-up and in despair about her future, she felt as if she’d failed at it all, and she was tired of it. On June six, 2007 Debbie Hampton, of Greensboro, North Carolina, took an overdose of far more than 90 pills—a combination of ten different prescription drugs, some of which she’d stolen from a neighbour’s bedside cabinet. That afternoon, she’d written a note on her computer: “I’ve screwed up this life so poor that there is no spot right here for me and practically nothing I can contribute.” Then, in tears, she went upstairs, sat on her bed, swallowed her tablets with some cheap Shiraz and put on a Dido CD to listen to as she died. As she lay down, she felt triumphant.

But then she woke up once more. She’d been discovered, rushed to hospital, and saved. “I was mad,” she says. “I’d messed it up. And, on top of that, I’d brain-damaged myself.” After Debbie emerged from her a single-week coma, her doctors gave her their diagnosis: encephalopathy. “That’s just a general term which indicates the brain’s not operating appropriate,” she says. She couldn’t swallow or manage her bladder, and her hands constantly shook. Significantly of the time, she couldn’t understand what she was seeing. She could barely even speak. “All I could do was make sounds,” she says. “It was like my mouth was complete of marbles. It was shocking, due to the fact what I heard from my mouth didn’t match what I heard in my head.” After a remain in a rehabilitation centre, she began recovering gradually. But, a year in, she plateaued. “My speech was extremely slow and slurred. My memory and pondering was unreliable. I didn’t have the power to live a regular life. A good day for me was emptying the dishwasher.”

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