Our People

Norman Doidge, MD

Norman Doidge, MD

Norman Doidge, M.D., is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, researcher, author, essayist and poet. He is on faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry, and Research Faculty at Columbia University’s Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, in New York. He is the author of two New York Times Bestsellers. He lives in Toronto.


After winning the E.J. Pratt Prize for Poetry at age 19, Doidge won early recognition from the literary critic Northrop Frye, who wrote that his work was “really remarkable . . . haunting and memorable.” At the University of Toronto, he studied classics and philosophy, and graduated with high distinction, then earned his medical degree. In New York, he simultaneously completed psychiatric and psychoanalytic training at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, followed by two years as a Columbia-National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow, studying research techniques, and another year as a Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry at Columbia.

Early Writing Accomplishments

In 1994, Doidge won The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Saturday Night Literary Award, the most important award for an unpublished work in Canada, for his personal memoir, “The Suit.” He became editor-in-chief of Books in Canada; The Canadian Review of Books from 1995 to 1998; and, from 1998 to 2001, a newspaper columnist, writing “On Human Nature” in the National Post. His series of literary portraits of exceptional people at moments of transformation appeared in Saturday Night Magazine and won four Canadian National Magazine Gold Awards, including the National Magazine Award President’s Medal, for the best article published in Canada in the year 2000. That account of his intimate conversation with the Nobel laureate Saul Bellow, called “Love, Friendship and the Art of Dying,” was “brilliantly sustained from beginning to end,” said the judges, who continued, “This multi-leveled piece about writing, friendship, life and death opens a door into the complex lives of two extraordinary literary figures.”

It was out of these kinds of portraits—and Doidge’s conviction that neuroplasticity represents the single most important new idea in our understanding of the human brain in hundreds of years, with immense consequences for our understanding of human nature, human and therapeutic possibilities, and human culture— that The Brain That Changes Itself emerged.

Clinical and Research Experience

Dr. Doidge served as Head of the Psychotherapy Centre and the Assessment Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, and also taught in the departments of Philosophy, Political Science, Law and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Along with his work on neuroplasticity and the brain he has published on trauma, problems in love, psychiatric diagnoses and the efficacy of intensive psychotherapies, and is the author of chapters on research based standards and guidelines for the practice of intensive psychotherapy that have been used in Canada.

In 1993 he presented his early research at the White House in Washington, DC, and is credited with helping preserve these treatments as part of the Canadian and Australian health care systems. Along with supervising residents at the University of Toronto, he is also a Training Analyst (a trainer of psychoanalysts) in the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis. He has done volunteer work in Ethiopia, teaching psychiatry and lecturing at Addis Ababa, Department of Psychiatry.

Clinical, Scientific and Book Awards

Dr. Doidge has won a number of scientific awards, including the U.S. National Psychiatric Endowment Award in Psychiatry; the American Psychoanalytic Association’s CORST Prize in Psychoanalysis and Culture; the Canadian Psychoanalytic Association’s M. Prados Prize; and election to the American College of Psychoanalysts for “many outstanding achievements in psychiatry and psychoanalysis… and national leadership in psychiatry.” For a number of years, most recently in 2015, he has been among the most frequently cited authors in psychoanalysis, and in 2008, he won the Mary S. Sigourney Prize, the highest award in international psychoanalysis in that literature. But he is best know for his contributions to understanding the brain and new approaches to it.

In 2010, US Dana Brain Foundation’s journal Cerebrum editors and readers chose The Brain that Changes Itself from among 30,000 books written on the brain, as “the best general book on the brain.”

The Brain that Changes Itself won best book of the year awards from The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, National Post, Slate, Amazon.com (Top Ten Science Category), Amazon.ca (Best Books of the Year Category), among others. It was a Scientific American Main selection.

The National Association of Mental Illness Ken Book Award, “for an “outstanding literary work contributing to better understanding of mental illness as a neurobiological disease.”

The Brain’s Way of Healing won the 2015 Gold Nautilus Award in Science

In October 2015, Dr. Doidge was recipient of the Special Recognition Award from Brain Injury Canada for his “extraordinary, heroic contribution to advance the cause of acquired brain injury in Canada.”

Scientific and Popular Writing

He has written over 170 articles, both scientific and popular. His writing has appeared in scientific journals such as the American Journal of Psychiatry, the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, International Journal of Eating Disorders, Comprehensive Psychiatry, and in the general press, including in The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Arts & Letters Daily, U.S. News and World Report, the back-page essay for Time Magazine, Reader’s Digest, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, L’Unita, Hungarian Review, UPI, Saturday Night, National Post, The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Books in Canada, Gravitas, The Medical Post, The Melbourne Age, The Australian, Australian Financial Review, among others, and his work has been frequently anthologized in college texts as examples of how to write well. He has been a reviewer for the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

Writing About Dr. Doidge

He and his work have been profiled and cited in, among others, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, Scientific American Mind, Melbourne Age, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Harvard Review of Psychiatry, Der Spiegel, Psychology Today, O: The Oprah Magazine, Association for Advancement of Retired People, Rotman School of Management: The Magazine, Vogue, Ability Magazine, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and the National Post.

Television Radio and Film

Dr. Doidge has been described by The Globe and Mail as “a master at explaining science to the rest of us.” The PBS special, “The Brain Fitness Program,” which featured him and his book, became the most successful TV fundraising drive in PBS’s history and was aired more than 10,000 times. He has been a guest to discuss the brain and human nature on BBC World News TV, BBC TV, PBS, CBS, CNN, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, SBS, CBC, CTV, Global, and TVO, which has devoted four television shows to his work: “The Agenda with Steve Paiken,” “Allen Gregg in Conversation,” “Big Ideas,” and “Agenda on The Brain’s Way of Healing.” He has appeared on hundreds of radio programs including NPR, BBC Radio, CBC, ABC, and Public Radio International. A film of The Brain That Changes Itself, co-written by Norman Doidge and Mike Sheerin, appeared on Canada’s most watched science program, “The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki, and in Europe and Australia. The former film won the 2009 WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival Jury Award, the second highest award for a film at the festival, and was nominated for the the Best Science/Medical Documentary at the Yorktown Sheaf Film Festival. It was followed by a second film, “Changing Your Mind.” He has twice hosted “Mysteries of the Mind” 25 hours of television on the brain, for TVO Ontario.
(link: http://about.tvo.org/blog/news-releases-and-announcements/mysteries-mind-week-returns-tvo-january-20-25)

The documentary film of The Brain’s Way of Healing will premiere in Canada on the “CBC’s Nature of Things,” October 27, at 8:00 pm: http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/the-brains-way-of-healing

Public Speaking

When he is not doing research and writing, Dr. Doidge is a frequent keynote lecturer in North America, Europe and Australia. He has lectured at major universities including conferences sponsored by Harvard, MIT, Yale, and in Princeton, New Jersey. He has presented his research at the United Nations, the White House, Washington DC, London School of Economics, Royal Society of Arts London, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Dublin, The East West Pain Conference Neuroscience Research Institute, Peking University, Beijing, Goethe University, Frankfurt Germany, the Genoa Science Festival, McLuhan Galaxy Celebration, Universita La Splenza, Roma, Italy, among others. He has lectured throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, the United States, and Canada.