In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Karen Pape tells the story of how some children with early brain damage astounded everyone around them. The brain injury they suffered at or near birth had led to motor problems such as the awkward gait we associate with cerebral palsy. Yet they were able to run, kick a soccer ball, tap dance, and play tennis. This was not supposed to happen. It ran counter to the prevailing belief that the brain is hardwired and fixed. When Dr. Pape first shared her remarkable findings, she ran into fierce opposition from mainstream medicine. Yet this courageous neonatologist didn’t back down. In her clinical practice, Dr. Pape helped many young brain-damaged children to significantly improve their movement. It led her to ask why some of them could run but not walk with the same ease. Her answer was astounding: By the time they learned to run, their brains had healed. The awkward walking gait was actually a bad habit acquired while the brain was still damaged. This is the power and the beauty of neuroplasticity, the brain’s amazing ability to change and heal. It has revolutionized the treatment of adults who suffer stroke. Now, for the first time, this remarkable book shows that children with a brain injury at or near birth can get better, too. These stories of children’s recovery and improvements are a revelation—surprising, inspiring, and illuminating. They offer real hope for some of the world’s most vulnerable children and a better understanding of how the baby brain grows and recovers.

Advanced Praise for


Understanding Neuroplasticity in the Child’s Brain

“This book is chock-full of cases of children with cerebral palsy who vastly exceed their physicians’ expectations, as well as practical advice for parents and caregivers on how this can be done. Karen Pape, MD, is a pioneer, rightly demanding that colleagues integrate the new science of brain plasticity as it applies to these children, and this is her cri de coeur, recording not only the new breakthroughs, but effectively explaining why, tragically, so many families are still denied these important interventions.”
— Norman Doidge, MD, author of The Brain’s Way of Healing and The Brain That Changes Itself


“The delightful history of a feisty, path-finding doctor on the way to helping every child with early brain injury to a better life. It’s chock-full of wisdom, deep scientific and medical understanding, wonderful practical advice, and justified hope.”
— Michael Merzenich, PhD, Professor Emeritus, UCSF, author of Soft-Wired, and winner of the 2016 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience


“An affirmation of the life-changing benefits of neuroplastic healing and some powerful lessons for life.”
— Jay Greenspan, MD, MBA, Neonatologist, Pediatrician-in-Chief, A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children


“Accessible insights into breakthroughs in the understanding of neurological deficits in children, and exciting additions to the repertoire of available treatment methods.”
— Warwick J. Peacock, MD, Director of the Surgical Science Laboratory at UCLA, Professor Emeritus Neurosurgery, UCSF


“Never before has a book been written that so effectively marries science and story to help parents understand how they can improve their child’s potential.”
— Professor Iona Novak, PhD, Head of Research, Research Institute, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, University of Sydney, Australia


“Dr. Karen Pape changes the paradigm ‘No hope of a cure’ to ‘Cure for some and improvement for all,’ giving children with brain damage a reason to fight.”
— Lorenzo Beltrame, professional tennis player and coach, awarded Coach of the Year and “Doc” Counsilman Science Awards by the United States Olympic Committee


“Accessible insights into recent breakthroughs in the understanding of neurological deficits in children, and exciting additions to the repertoire of available treatment methods for these challenging problems.”
—Warwick J. Peacock, MD, Dir of the Surgical Science Laboratory, UCLA


"The breakthrough book of a generation for brain change and a real blueprint of hope.”
—Cynthia Frisina, Founder, Reaching for the Stars, Atlanta, GA


“A brilliantly insightful, contemporary, must-read on the practical applications of basic neuroscience discoveries.”  
—Elizabeth Theriault, PhD, Vice President Research and Informatics, Ontario Brain Institute


“This book has changed my expectations of what a child with brain injury can accomplish, and the results are truly astonishing.”
—Pia Stampe, PT, DPT, Step by Step Pediatric Therapy Center, Rochester, NY


“A wonderful journey through Pape’s career and scientific philosophy of neuroplasticity. Revelatory. Her greatest revelation may be that ‘habits hide recovery’—poor motor strategies adopted by an injured nervous system may preclude further improvements possible in a more mature or recovered nervous system.”
—Keith Tansey, MD, PhD, Professor, Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurobiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, and President-Elect, American Spinal Injury Association


“Refreshing and energizing! The Boy Who Could Run But Not Walk leads us on a journey not only of hope, but of action.”
—Suzanne Davis Bombria, PT, C/NDT, Coordinator-Instructor, CT


“As an adult with cerebral palsy, I kept yelling, ‘YES! YES!’ as I read The Boy Who Could Run But Not Walk. Finally, a book written by a doctor who ‘gets it’ when it comes to cerebral palsy treatment."
—John W. Quinn, author of Someone Like Me: An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy


“An amazing book that proves habit hides recovery. It can be done; it doesn’t matter what the disability. A good therapist, parent, or a sports coach can train a patient like an athlete—to achieve an optimal level of performance.”
—Karen Orlando, BSc, PT, Diploma Sport Physiotherapy, and member of Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Medical Teams


“Read this book. Dr. Karen Pape offers us the benefit of her remarkable and at times frustrating journey as a neonatologist who would not allow her own unorthodox understanding of the nervous system to be swallowed by conventional medical practices.”
—Harris A. Gelbard, MD, PhD, Director, Center for Neural Development and Disease, University of Rochester Medical Center, and Wendy B. Gelbard, MD, Associate Vice President Student Affairs, Rochester Institute of Technology


“Finally, hope can be passed on to the masses of parents and individuals needing to train smarter and pursue great therapies with success. This book will change lives.”  
— Ross Lilley, Executive Director/Founder, AccesSportAmerica, Boston, MA


“Dr. Karen Pape challenges the ‘can't do’ attitudes surrounding traditional treatment. As parents, we can do no less.”
—Ron Dolenti and Hope Caldwell, parents of twin boys with cerebral palsy


“A solid education in brain injury recovery for the layperson, reminding parents to rethink what they have been told about their child's prognosis.”  
—Deb Discenza, Founder, CEO, Publisher, Preemie World, LLC


“Thank you, Dr. Karen Pape, for filling a void for parents who face the vast and intimidating landscape of therapies for children with cerebral palsy. The Boy Who Could Run But Not Walk will be my go-to guide for many years to come.”
—Shoshana Hahn-Goldberg, PhD, mother of child with cerebral palsy


“The potential for improvement, and even cure, for children with cerebral palsy and other forms of brain injury appears to be grossly underexploited. The Boy Who Could Run But Not Walk offers genuine hope for all parents of at risk and diagnosed children with cerebral palsy.”
—Drew Smith, PhD, Director, Motion Analysis Research Center, Samuel Merritt University, Oakland, CA


“When my son was 10, the medical field and therapists were unsure and lacking any hope for him to achieve new function or improve. He works out every day, played a whole season of sled hockey, and is more comfortable with his body than he has ever been! An absolute must-read for parents, physicians, and therapists!”  
—Ruth Grant-Bailey, BSN, RN, mother to Mason Bailey, age 16


“Like Norman Doidge and Oliver Sacks, Karen Pape challenges medical orthodoxy and breaks new ground. Her work should be required reading for medical students, practicing physicians, physiotherapists, and anyone who works with, coaches, cares for, and loves someone with cerebral palsy.”
—Norah Myers, writer and editor 


“In my late-30s, I was told that I’d never walk unaided again. Dr. Karen Pape had the audacity to believe otherwise. My wish is that this book will encourage doctors not to settle for the status quo, but to look beyond the disabilities they see.”
—Catherine Bell, President, PRIME Impressions, and polio survivor.