Neuroplasticity: How Oprah Winfrey’s Case Studies Helps Share the Thoughts of Scientists

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Oprah Winfrey was born in 1926 in Houston, Texas. She grew up on the Third Ward, an area in the city that was hard hit by the Great Depression. She grew up learning how to save, which was an important lesson for her because she needed to save money to put food on the table. As she grew older she became interested in medicine and eventually decided that she wanted to be a doctor.


When she got her medical degree at the University of Texas, she was very impressed with the teachings of Dr. Friedrich Janns Jansen, an Austrian physician who specialized in pediatrics. A young girl who worked as an intern in Janns’ office noticed her and told her that Oprah was very cute. Oprah wrote a letter to Janns expressing her admiration for his work and asked if she could visit him when she returned to the United States.

While visiting in California to visit her father, she met a young Perry Schooler, a professor at Pepperdine University. Perry Schooler was the first African American member of the faculty at Pepperdine and he was looking for someone to give a radio lecture.

Oprah learned about The Lindy Center, an institution that was founded by Perry Schooler. A young man who had spent years studying the brain and nervous system was working in the lab with Janns Jansen and Winfrey. Perry Schooler explained to her that he believed that the neurons contained conscious thought.

The memory center that Perry Schooler was studying had a nervous system that was not conscious. When people were exposed to bright lights or other stimuli that reminded them of their work, the neurons showed activity. Perry Schooler and Winfrey discovered that these neurons did not respond to the stimulus because they were doing what is called selective attention.

In another case study that Oprah brought up in her book, she talked about another case study. This time she talked about a boy named Austin Jones, who went missing one night. The police were able to find his body in a creek but were unable to identify it. In addition to his brains, Austin Jones also had a flattened skull with the skull bones broken.

Because Austin Jones was born with an abnormal skull shape, he had trouble interacting socially in schools or mental health facilities. According to Oprah, Austin Jones never fully recovered.

The idea of neuroplasticity has been popularized in recent years by Oprah and others who have shared their own stories about their experiences with the mind. It is possible that Oprah Winfrey has a lot to do with the continued growth of this theory as her case studies demonstrate the importance of neuroplasticity.

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