Think Smart

 
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A leading neuroscientist and New York Times-bestselling author of Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot distills the research on the brain and serves up practical, surprising, and illuminating recommendations for warding off neurological decline, cognitive function, and encouraging smarter thinking day to day.

In Think Smart, the renowned neuropsychiatrist and bestselling author Dr. Richard Restak details how each of us can improve and tone our body-s most powerful organ: the brain.

As a renowned expert on the brain, Restak knows that in the last five years there have been exciting new scientific discoveries about the brain and its performance. So he-s asked his colleagues-many of them the world-s leading brain scientists and researchers-one important question: What can I do to help my brain work more efficiently? Their surprising-and remarkably feasible-answers are at the heart of Think Smart.

Restak combines advice culled from cutting-edge research with brain-tuning exercises to show how individuals of any age can make their brain work more effectively. In the same accessible prose that made Mozart-s Brain and the Fighter Pilot a New York Times bestseller, Restak presents a wide array of practical recommendations about a variety of topics, including the crucial role sleep plays in boosting creativity, the importance of honing sensory memory, and the neuron- firing benefits of certain foods.

In Think Smart, the -wise, witty, and ethical Restak- (says the Smithsonian Institution) offers readers helpful suggestions for fighting neurological decline that will put every reader on the path to building a healthier, more limber brain.

Customer Reviews:

  • Excellent Recommendations for Improving and Preserving Mental Performance
    Richard Restak continues his work communicating the results of recent neuroscientific research to the general reader in this book. He covers enough of the basic anatomy of the brain so that the general reader will understand what is to come and discusses the changes in the brain that occur over time. He follows with a thorough discussion of the various aspects of good brain function, summarizes the results of the neuroscience research relating to each, and follows with a set of recommendations.

    I have read several of Dr. Restak's books and have always found his cautious nature to be quite appealing. He recognizes that neuroscience is still in its youth, so that today's discoveries may be modified or even contradicted in the near future; as a result, he is appropriately cautious in his recommendations. This is a fine work, professional in the best sense of the word....more info
  • Fascinating Information, But Will I Really Do The Work?
    Restak has definitely done the research on this book. He presents not only the brain diet ("if it's good for your heart, it's good for your brain"), but also various exercises to keep the memory and adaptability your brain has and even to improve it. Unfortunately, none of the exercises are particularly exciting and I can't see myself doing most of them with any regularity. He does talk a bit about video games, but in sort of conflicting ways--"here are all the great things you can get from them" vs. "don't spend more than an hour three times a week on them or you could suffer negative effects."

    Still, the book is definitely worth reading, especially inasmuch he talks about the correlation between dementia and various activities/lack of activities. The various studies are also really interesting, if that's your bag (and it is definitely mine). Unlike many things you'll run across that are based on "junk science," this book is very specific about which things are factual and which are still speculative....more info
  • diet and exercise for a better brain
    Restak offers encouragement to those of us wanting to think better. He explores several ways to do this, and the different types of cognitive ability that constitutes thinking.

    As far as improving the inherent capabilities, a good diet and exercise are recommended; separately but preferably jointly. For diet, an abundance of fruits and vegetables is suggested, along with fish, the latter having omega 3, which studies suggest boost brain performance. Even if omega 3 is later shown to have little effect, the dietary recommendations are probably at worst benign. And possibly beneficial for overall health.

    For wine lovers, he suggests a moderate drinking of red wine. Several studies have pointed to resveratrol as the active ingredient, which might somehow slow aging. This is tentative, and the suggestion is only of a glass per day.

    The advocacy of exercise comes out of recent research showing an increase in growth of capillaries in the brain, and the number of interconnections of neurons. Memory and cognition are encoded or aided by the dense web of interconnections....more info
  • Good foundation for improving your "brain power".
    This book will give you a basic overview of how to improve your "brain power". Notice I said "how to" because that is the main focus of this book. After a VERY brief overview of brain anatomy the Good Doctor churns out brief tid bits of research and their implications in mental well being.

    I must confess that when I ordered this book I was hoping for a more technical and detailed presentation especially since the author was a neuroscientist. However, the book is too general and superficial to be of lasting value. Much of the information here is old hat and experimental works cited are not referenced for further follow-up should you so desire. I can honestly state that I did not find anything in the text that I was not already aware of and I am by no means a professional in psychology or neuroscience. The presentation reminded me of reading a National Geographic article without the pretty pictures.

    All in all a good basic overview but with not much meat in the soup. ...more info
  • A book you can use, not just pop sci theory.
    I had a boss who used to yell at us "If you don't think too good don't think too much". Just like a Wall Street hero, no? Anyway, he couldn't be more wrong. This fine book issues from many years of research to proclaim that we truly can become smarter at a profound yet practical level. We can dwarf the IQs so many of us were saddled with as children. There is nothing like a little good science to rinse all the cultural goop out of our hair. Moreover, Dr. Restak is a good doctor to his readers.

    This is not a self-help or feel good book. It is real practical science from a careful source. I wish I had this book when I was thirteen, but I am making use of it decades later. Then I could have used his description of the adolescent and adult brains. I like his writing style and the organization he employs.

    Dr. Restak starts off Part One with a little scientific context so we can more fully appreciate his developing program in Part Two: how to care for and use our brains. First we take care of the whole body as an organic system. Proper diet is a real foundation; transfats and weight in general do matter. The next realm is physical activity. Seems all so simple, but he makes his case in a direct way you do not see everyday in other health discussions. And he addresses that most un-American of activities -- sleep. We have been dang near the most sleep deprived nation on Earth for decades now. He points out that we worry more after not enough sleep.

    Once you give yourself a fighting chance by addressing fundamentals, you can address mental performance. Memory in its many aspects (even sense memory), creativity, games and more all explore the different dimensions of brain capacity or performance. Mental exercises, he remarks are beneficial only when you do not dislike them.

    You find yourself putting the book down every few pages to try out his recommendations (including naps). It took me way longer to read this pleasant book because I had to stop and see for myself, even when I agreed in an abstract way. The brain truly does follow the hand. Dally through part three and enjoy the working tour of your brain.

    Part four discusses the use of technology, with special consideration of the adult mind. Part Five expands earlier topics around creativity. Finally Part Six discusses impediments that either we have now or will have later.

    Average intelligence has quite enough to brain power to achieve excellence . Americans have a long history of proving exactly this proposition. Lately this keystone of democracy seems to have been lost in the noise....more info
  • A disappointment
    As someone about to qualify for Medicare, I am one of legions who are increasingly interested in staving off cognitive aging and improving my brain's performance. I was impressed by Dr. Restak's credentials and his long list of publications. I really wanted to like this book and find useful advice in it. Unfortunately, the author lost his credibility with me early on, so that I do not feel that I can trust his recommendations.

    First of all, he makes statements that I know are just plain wrong. For example, in Part Three, he says, "Thanks to neurons in the frontal cortex that are bimodal (responding to touch and sound) or trimodal (responding to touch, sound, and vision), we activate identical brain areas whenever we use any of these three senses." I am not a doctor, just an informed layperson, but I KNOW that we do not use identical brain areas when we see as when we hear. I am sure Dr. Restak knows this also and must have meant something else, but if I had not known better I would come away with a very inaccurate picture of the brain's functioning. How many other misstatements or misleading phrasings are in the book that I did not know enough to disbelieve?

    Second, he makes conclusions that do not appear to follow from the evidence that he gives. These may be valid, based on other studies, but if so, he should make that clear. This weakness was especially apparent in Part Two in the section on diet. For example, he says "measures to control obesity are worthwhile, whatever effort may be required, since, as tests of cognitive performance in humans, obesity is more often associated with cognitive impairment than with age, gender, education, or IQ. Particularly affected are the functions carried out by those all-important frontal lobes. As mentioned earlier, these most developed brain areas are known to be associated with setting and keeping to goals, controlling impulses, and monitoring one's own behavior---three special problem areas for the chronically obese." He implies that obese people have problems with the functions carried out by the frontal lobes, but he does NOT indicate whether the obesity may be CAUSED at least in part by those poorly functioning lobes rather than the other way around, so we cannot say without further studies whether losing weight would improve the lobes' functioning. In the same section, just before the quote above, he cites a study on mice that purportedly involves obesity, but he describes the study as comparing mice fed a normal diet with mice fed a diet high in saturated fat and empty calories. While it is true that empty calories and fat can lead to obesity, it is not at all clear whether it is the obesity or the poor nutrition that produced the poor performance in the mice.

    Many of the recommendations in this book are well known, and I have heard them before. On other subjects, such as the importance of sleep, I encountered new information, and I would like to take it away as solid. Unfortunately the weaknesses I have described caused me to lose my acceptance of the author as an unquestioned authority. Perhaps in writing for a general audience Dr. Restak simply does not take care to phrase his statements as precisely as he would for his peers. If that is the case, he does both himself and his readers a disservice. There may be great advice in this book, but I am not willing to take this author's word for it.

    ...more info
  • an interesting and enjoyable book
    This book is well worth reading. The stated goal of of the author, Richard Restak, is to educate readers about how to make brain more efficient, effective, engaged. To accomplish this, Restak, who is a neuroscientist, interviewed leading neurologists and reviewed the very latest research in the field. This book is not only educational, but fortunately for the reader, Restak is a good writer who manages to write the book to a lay audience. As an added bonus, he's got a decent sense of humor to boot.

    Restak informs the reader that the brain is shaped by individual experiences in life; thus, environmental enrichment leads to enhancement in the human brain. The book is divided into chapters designed to discuss various aspects of brain functioning, including:

    1. diet and exercise.
    2. specific steps for enhancing performance
    3. technology to enhance brain function
    4. fashioning the creative brain
    5. impediments to optimal brain function and how to compensate for them

    Those who keep current on their reading may find that they know some pieces of Restak's book. For example: exercise regularly, avoid trans fats, and get your Omega 3's.

    The real merit in this book is that it compiles what appears to be the latest research into a single, well-organized location. Given the spotty nature of the disclosure of scientific advancement in the news cycle, I found this book to be a great way to fill in the gaps of what I already knew. Moreover, the book offers some tangible means by which to improve cognitive function.

    At first I thought I would never be motivated to do the exercises mentioned in the book. Some of them are a bit awkward or involved for me (spend 10 minutes "memorizing" a coffee cup?). Then I stumbled on a web site that has a number of brain teaser games similar to those mentioned in the book - www.gamesforthebrain.com The games on that site largely reflect the exercises mentioned in the chapter on specific steps for enhancing brain performance, and they're actually fun to play as well.

    I feel better off for having read this book, and I do believe that it has given me some tools to use going forward. For that reason, I recommend it for almost any reader. I especially enjoy it now that I've found that "games for the brain" web site.


    ...more info
  • Is it a gimmick?
    Reading Dr. Restak's book was not much unlike sitting in a Biological Psychology course. For someone who has been keeping track of the latest cognitive science and neuroscience research, you'll find these studies "old news". For the true laymen, there are plenty of interesting tidbits within Restak's latest text.

    Honestly, I have to admit that I am a bit of a skeptic. Being a beginner in research, perhaps I have a slightly more down to earth view of the entire empirical process. Much of the studies highlighted in this book took place under strict laboratory conditions and therefore, you might be hard pressed to apply them literally to real-life conditions.

    Finally, I noted that Restak made a serious effort to establish his credibility as a scientist. For me, he came off a bit arrogant, but all-in-all it was excusable. ...more info
  • Simple steps to think smartly
    Using examples from research experiments and daily-life, Dr.Restak has defined simple steps to enhance our brain's performance and thinking power. Brain is THE governing part of our body and as we age, its information processing capacity decreases. In this book, author talks about the "brain-diet", types of different memories, how we use these different memories in different situations, and more importantly how brain uses them itself. using plain simple examples, he has tried to stimulate the reader's mind and make him think....the best way to make one understand the importance of stimulating our neurons. (Another good read on the working of brain is Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently

    I am sure, once you start reading it, you won't even realize how smoothly it will flow through your senses and make you THINK SMARTLY...!!!! ...more info
  • First, get out your highlighters!
    Dr. Restak's book is replete with information and suggestions for extending one's productive and enjoyable years of life. In addition, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

    The theme of this book is a response to the question "What should I do to keep my brain working at its best?" Using today's most current scientific knowledge, Dr. Restak attempts to answer it, and in layman's terms.

    He begins with a description of the brain, its "care and feeding," and subsequently outlines specific steps to enhance and improve it. Here's where you unleash those highlighters! Next, he addresses the "creative brain," a lively discussion with a series of examples aimed at "thinking out of the box." This is followed by a chapter of special importance to "the senior citizen" (Who, Me?), which addresses the impediments, ageing among them, to optimal brain function, cautionary perhaps, but also encouraging. The epilogue is a handy summarization of many of the essential points detailed earlier.

    As a caregiver, I found Dr. Restak's description of the debilitating effects of stress on the human brain more than just timely. His suggestions for ways to compensate for such inescapable stress, as well as those in the section addressing "mood enhancers," will be gratefully incorporated into my daily life....more info
  • Think Smart
    My previous exposure to Dr. Restak's work was `Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot,' which to my recollection I wasn't very keen on and for those of you interested in reading that review I'd advise to scroll through my profile and find it.

    The current book `Think Smart' is a little different and hence carries a different weight for me. Think Smart in a good introductory work for every fan of human brain functioning, maintenance and upkeep. The complexity of Dr. Restak's vernacular is minimal and so it is expected that any high school grad will comprehend the overall message, which is: You need to put as much effort into maintaining a healthy brain as you put into feeding, clothing, and bathing yourself. I can't put it any simpler than this because I run the risk of loosing 60% of the general population.

    For the overachievers I have two words with respect to this book: Skip it. Why? I have had the opportunity to read a few very enticing works on the subject of brain function and physiology and would strongly recommend these instead. I guarantee you will find a lot more in them in terms of brain areas and how specific supplements may influence them, personal victories with brain related illnesses and brain exercises than `Think Smart.'

    Recommended readings:

    Making a Good Brain Great by Daniel G. Amen
    The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
    ...more info
  • Of course, think outside the box;)
    I have no idea why the description of a ghost story in post war Britain is attached to this book, but it's not this particular book.

    I have read a few of Dr Restak's books and found them interesting, if not always in line with how I understood how the body works. Nope, I'm not a doctor and I don't even play one on tv, but I do know different areas of the brain process audio, tactile and visual experiences. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to figure that one out.

    Plus I loved the issue of obesity - Dr Restak's quote is "in humans, obesity is more often associated with cognitive impairment than with age, gender, education, or IQ". Really? So would a college educated obese person have more cognitive impairment than, say, a middle school dropout who drank red wine every day? (By the way, drinking red wine is recommended by Dr Restak to help improve cognitive function.) Does that even make any sense to anyone? If there's a study to back up that little nugget, Dr Restak neglects to give the information on it. (Here's my bias - I'm considered "obese")

    Dr Restak's guidelines to improve brain performance are basically ones you have heard of - playing games, keeping involved in life, problem solving. If dementia, be it vascular or Alzheimer's, takes over the brain, all the Scrabble playing in the world is not going to help. And let's not talk about such things as gunshot wounds or motor vehicle accidents.

    But Dr Restak is the neuroscientist and I am not. I have to admit that certain things made me think "what the heck?" when I was reading the book and it made it difficult for me to take everything Dr Restak said at face value. Your mileage may vary, but I'd recommend this book with some reservations.

    ...more info
  • Good Guide to Keeping Your Brain in Shape
    If you want to keep that mass of gray matter in your head working well for a long time, this book provides some helpful advice. Author Restak includes exercises to keep your brain limber by improving your vocabulary and your memory, for example. He provides websites and other resources if you want extra credit. Restak provides ample evidence that not only can your brain work well for a long time, but that it can also overcome setbacks and, with good preventive maintence, avoid getting rusty. The only weak section of the book was the one on nutrition. The evidence in this chapter was so speculative that it may as well have been left out....more info
  • Unbiased broad overview by a professor, not some salesman
    I'm a psychology graduate student, and gotta say I see a lot of over simplified articles and books about this subject that range from misleading to biased to exaggeratedly optimistic. Some focus on one area to the exclusion of all the other things we could be doing. And some are written by folks trying to sell something. This solid, useful book suffers from none of these problems.

    The author is a professor of clinical neurology, a neuroscientist, and has also developed an easy readable style of the course of writing many magazine articles and books. He never talks down to us or avoids the hard areas. You feel it's a pleasant conversation with someone who is weighing the (often tentative) evidence to do his best to ethically recommend reasonable actions.

    There's a clear overview of the wet three pound blob we call a brain, then sections on its care and feeding, brain exercises , latest video game reviews, a good review of K. Anders Ericsson's work on deliberative practice vs. `talent' and a look to the future. The material is bang up to date (2009) and doesn't seem to make any huge unsubstantiated leaps. If you are looking for an excellent review of the whole subject, along with advice you can trust, it's hard to think of a better book you can buy.
    ...more info
  • How to Train Your Brain!
    Neuroscience, the convergence of neurology and psychology, holds amazing potential in answering many of today's pressing questions. Dr. Richard Restak's book explains research findings in a way that is understandable and ties them together in a way that is riveting.

    For people who are interested in how to ensure that their brains age gracefully, this book offers easy to understand tips from regular exercise to what foods to eat. It also debunks myths and old wives' tales that have been floating around for years....more info
  • The best way to guarantee a normal brain in old age is to pick your parents carefully
    Absent that option, you might want to consider following the doctor's suggestions, which although given ostensibly in response to queries on how to keep the aging brain in healthy shape, are equally applicable to anyone who just want to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit regardless of their age: keep active (don't watch television that much, exercise, play video games or Wii occasionally) but get enough rest and sleep, eat well (e.g., vegetables, fruits, walnuts, fish etc), be social, find something you can be passionate about outside of work, always be willing to reevaluate your priorities (high-paying job stressing you out too much? do something about it!), and be aware of who you are (so maybe an older person's reaction time may be slower than a younger person's, but there are many other things in life that depend more on "crystallized" rather than "fluid" intelligence, something that can only be acquired through experience). I agree with other reviewers that none of the doctor's suggestions is new so I'm giving the book a neutral rating, but make no mistake, the doctor offers hope and encouragement: even though brain cells start to die as soon as one is born, the brain retains the ability to make new intercell connections; so don't assume that everything is downhill once you're old, you've got to give yourself -- and your brain -- a fighting chance!! [By the way, the title of my review is a funny quote from the book. Hopefully, it grabbed some readers' attention :-) ]...more info
  • Think Smart (An Educator's Review)
    Richard Restak, M.D., has written several interesting books exposing us to the brain's secrets and potential ("Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot," "The Modern Mind," etc.) In "Think Smart," Rastak has compiled several prescriptions for improving bran function and perormanace that have been reccomended to him by colleague's over the years. In some sense, it is like a chef's compilation of cooking reccomendations made by other chefs; reccomendations straight from those who know.

    To be honest, a decent amount of the advice is things we (should) already know - of the "use it or lose it" variety. The sections on improving memory and fostering and increasing creativity both come down to Restak suggesting interesting exercises we can all do to enhance these skills. Like the world of physical exercise, the best way to bolster prowess is to exercise our faculties.

    Not all of the suggsetions, though, are common sense. The first section - on "care and feeding of the brain," summarizes the current nutritional and health research on the brain. How much sleep is good? What foods are good? How much will exercise help brain function? etc.

    Even the two use-it-or-lose-it sections mentioned above depart from what many see as common sense; they operate on the premise that memory, intelligence, attention-focusing, and creativity are not fixed capacities, but can be substantially improved by the right efforts. While this premise is controversial and the jury is far from unanimous (Restak doesn't offer convincing evidence to the contrary), there is certainly evidence showing that memory and reasoning skills can be improved by exercise. Restak goes a long way in giving us good suggestions of exercises we can do to strenthen our mental faculties.

    As a high-school teacher, I found this book quite valuable particularly for the suggestions of brain activities that can be done. Not only is the book fascinating for the neuroscience tid-bits it contains (statistics on how long the average person can store things in short term memory, for instance) but for its practical suggestions on things I might work with my students on to improve their mental agility.

    This will be an exciting book for lay readers who are (a) curious as to how our astonishingly plastic and fluid brain works; and (b) those who want practical suggestions on (physical and mental) ways that they can improve their brain function.

    May your brain reach its optimum potential. ...more info
  • Yet another fine work by Dr. Restak
    In previous books, he talked about brain plasticity. That concept is behind much of this book. Over the past few years, I have watched the stupidity epidemic get progressively worse. Most of the ill have gotten that way through poor choices. This book presents a road to recovery for them, and a path of prevention for everyone else.

    The book has a few flaws, where Dr. Restak wanders off the reservation of his knowledge base.

    For example, he recommends drinking red wine. He gets his information from "studies" paid for by the wine industry. The studies cherry pick information. I look at the subject of alcohol this way. If you find some beneficial substance in gasoline, that doesn't mean you should drink gasoline.

    The same is true of any beverage containing alcohol. Consumption of alcohol has net negative consequences. Any benefit derived from it can be obtained by other means, without killing brain and liver cells, without consuming empty calories, and without unleashing a storm of free radicals in your body. Yes, alcohol has all of those liabilities. And more.

    The book also has strengths where Dr. Restak talks outside his area of expertise. For example, his discussion of physical health is very good. This is my own area of expertise (I haven't been sick since 1971 despite having an immunity deficiency, and it's because of how I've implemented my health expertise).

    The book contains extensive discussion about the implications of the fact that the brain is a physical organ of the body. You can't have a healthy brain if you are feeding your body junk and engaging in other behavior that is leaving your body a wreck. For the typical American immersed in our country's disease-habit culture, this book is a "must read."

    This book is about 250 pages long, and consists of an introduction, six chapters (called "parts"), an epilogue, a bibliography, and an index.

    Chapter 1, "Discovering the Brain," brings out a summary of "what the brain is about," from Dr. Restak's previous books. For the first-time Restak reader, this brings you up to speed so you have a foundation for the rest of the book. If you've enjoyed his work previously, this chapter is a good refresher.

    Chapter 2, "Care and Feeding of the Brain: The Basics," Dr. Restak essentially provides my personal diet philosophy (see www.supplecity.com for info). The information in this book needs some tweaking, however.

    *You do not "avoid" hydrogenated oils. You eliminate them. These substances are highly toxic, which is why I don't eat restaurant bread or anything else that might contain partially or fully hydrogenated oil.

    *I mentioned the alcohol thing, earlier. The human body and alcohol simply do not go together.

    *He is too benevolent toward grains. Whole grains are far better than processed ones, but overall you need to make grains a minor part of your diet.

    *Dr. Restak also errs in his discussion of fish. Wrong conclusions from too little data.

    If you're on the typical American diet, you can follow the advice in Chapter 2 as presented and experience seemingly miraculous improvements in how you look, feel, and perform. But you can do even better, with a few changes as noted.

    Chapter 3, "Specific Steps for Enhancing Brain Performance," is probably not going to appeal to many people. The reason is the same reason that achieving a high level of physical fitness does not appeal to most people: work. Go into any gym, and you will observe low-intensity workouts. You probably won't come across anyone in the place doing a high-intensity workout. This doesn't mean people are lazy, it means people don't like being pushed to their limits.

    When it comes to mental exercise, we're the same way. We easily rise to the challenge when the challenge is at the 50% level. We solve problems all day long at work, though many of them never hit even the 50% level.

    When confronted with a 90 percenter, most of us will delay or engage in other avoidance behavior. Again, that doesn't make us lazy. It's just a natural response.

    The reason training of any kind works is adaptation. We don't get the adaptation response until we get a challenge that either comes very close to 100% of our capacity or exceeds it. Going into that range is uncomfortable, even painful. We are almost guaranteed to fail, whereas with a 50% challenge we are almost guaranteed to succeed. So, we try to avoid those high-end challenges. The consequence of that is we don't get the adaptation and improvement.

    Still, this chapter is where you'll find tips and techniques on doing exercises that make you smarter. If you decide that being smarter is worth the discomfort of working at it, then you can choose from a variety of ways to get the adaptation that results in a more powerful brain. Not sure you want to make the effort? You can scale back and do "maintenance" with the same techniques.

    Chapter 4, "Using Technology to Achieve a More Powerful Brain," could easily be misunderstood. Dr. Restak clearly warns against overdoing it, so head that warning. There are benefits to video games and other technology. If used judiciously, these games can be tools to improve your reaction time, stimulate the growth of neural networks, increase your processing speed, improve your alertness, and produce other brain boosting benefits.

    Video games take the same "work" of Chapter 3 and make them fun. But just as it's not good to sit around all day working crossword puzzles or math games, it's also not good to let video games replace actual life.

    I can sum up Chapter 5, "Fashioning the Creative Brain," by saying it's about "think outside the box." Dr. Restak provides examples and exercises to illustrate what it means to think in nontraditional ways. He then goes into what some of those ways are, providing interesting examples. He concludes this chapter by providing four steps to increase your productivity.

    Chapter 6, "Impediments to Optimal Brain Function and How to Compensate for Them," is probably the most important chapter for the typical reader. Most of us are fine with how smart we are now. We just want to keep it that way. That's what this chapter is about. Dr. Restak identifies behaviors and situations we can control, to minimize damage to what we've got.

    But we can't entirely prevent decline as we age. So, what to do? Dr. Restak points out that there are two types of intelligence: fluid and crystallized. The good news is the crystallized intelligence gets better as you get older. Like the wine you should not drink, it improves with age. There's a reason for the adage, "With age comes wisdom." Dr. Restak explores that reason and provides practical advise on how to use it to your advantage.

    The epilogue is titled, "The Twenty-First Century Brain." Perhaps this was "Epilogue" rather than "Chapter 7" because it's short when compared to the other chapters. It provides his recommendations. The are divided up into four areas:

    *Nutrition. This is factually flawed. The information on cholesterol is incorrect, and it comes from conclusions rather than the data. Similarly, the recommendation to "try to include walnuts and blueberries in your daily diet" comes from conclusions rather than the data. In the first case, dietary cholesterol is not the problem; excess overall fat consumption is. In the second case, walnuts and blueberries are specific examples of a general rule; the general rule isn't even mentioned. The caffeine recommendation concurs with the current literature on the topic.

    *Cognitive performance improvement. This is nearly all good. Again, though, he uses specific examples instead of the general rule. He gives a lengthy description of a specific exercise for dexterity, while other exercises are equally valid. He also recommends getting a GPS, though this would not be a high priority for me personally and the technology still has kinks in it so may not reduce stress to the degree he implies. Just as he understated earlier about alcohol, he understates about television. You do not "reduce" brainwashing, you eliminate it. Informed intelligence and television and are mutually exclusive. His discussion of developing a magnificent obsession, however, makes up for any other deficiencies in this part of the book.

    *Mood improvement. This part is all good.

    *Start now. Dr. Restak talks about why it's never too late to enhance brain function, and provides information to prove that assertion.

    This book makes a fine addition to my growing Restak collection. Even though some of the information isn't correct and even though some of the recommendations need to be rewritten, the book can help almost anybody reach a higher level of physical and mental health. The benefits that flow from that include better relationships, better financial stability, less illness, and greater happiness. Not a bad return on an investment of less than twenty bucks....more info
  • Decent book on maintaining and improving mental performance by an actual neuroscientist
    I have only glanced at some of the other, similar, offering which have been circulating recently. Most of them are selling a plan for mental improvement (or maintenance for older folks) and have no real backing to them. Here we have an actual cognitive scientist writing on the topic and trying to provide evidence along the way. The book was a bit thinner in substance than I would have preferred, though the author did provide web links and references all the way through for additional information.

    Overall it's not a bad effort at all, quite interesting in places, though I thought that the nutrition chapter was poorly thought out. It had the least backing evidence and seemed perhaps like a late addition to the book....more info