Think Smart: A Neuroscientist's Prescription for Improving Your Brain's Performance

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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:

  • 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
  • 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 - 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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


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