Making a Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program for Achieving and Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance

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Daniel Amen, M.D., one of the world’s foremost authorities on the brain, has news for you: your brain is involved in everything you do—learn to care for it properly, and you will be smarter, healthier, and happier in as little as 15 days!

You probably run, lift weights, or do yoga to keep your body in great shape; you put on sunscreen and lotions to protect your skin; but chances are you simply ignore your brain and trust it to do its job. People unknowingly endanger or injure their brains, stress them by working at a frenzied pace and not getting enough sleep, pollute them with caffeine, alcohol, and drugs, and deprive them of proper nutrients. Brain dysfunction is the number one reason people fail at school, work, and relationships. The brain is the organ of learning, working, and loving—the supercomputer that runs our lives. It’s very simple: when our brains work right, we work right—and when our brains have trouble, we have trouble in our lives.

Luckily, it’s never too late: the brain is capable of change, and when you care for it, the results are amazing. Making a Good Brain Great gives you the tools you need to optimize your brain power and enrich your health and your life in the process. The principles and exercises in this book, based on years of cutting-edge neuroscience research and the experiences of thousands of people, provide a wealth of practical information to teach you how to achieve the best brain possible. You will learn:

•how to eat right to think right

•how to protect your brain from injuries and toxic substances

•how to nourish your brain with vitamins and do mental workouts to keep it strong

•the critical component of physical exercise, and which kinds work best

•how to rid your brain of negative thoughts, counteract stress, and much more

Full of encouraging anecdotes from Dr. Amen’s many years of experience, Making a Good Brain Great is a positive and practical road map for enriching and improving your own greatest asset—your brain.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Essential Brain Upkeep and recovery
    This book is highly informative and helpful. Dr. Amen knows the brain in a very complete way, and instructs us how to protect, heal and sustain our brains. Since the brain is our main organ of thought and bodily control, this book ends up teaching us much about the human as a whole....more info
  • How ALA, ALC and CoQ10 can help change your mind...
    An excellent book on the benefits of keeping ones brain sound and healthy. I quite ennjoyed learning about the different parts of the brain, the supplements that can help enhance performance in each of its areas and the pointers on how to make my brain better. Great read and very educational. Highly recommended.
    ...more info
  • making a good brain great
    The CD's arrived amazingly fast and in perfect condition. The information was very helpful. I need to listen to them again as it's hard to write good notes while listening. That's why I bought the book too. This is filled with information for a large variety of concerned people. I will invest in more of Dr Amens work....more info
  • Slams videogames, rehashes "Change Your Brain..." book, costs more
    In my opinion Daniel Amen is willing to be unscientific and misrepresentative to profit from book sales and patients he draws to his chain of brain-scan clinics.

    In this book Amen concludes videogames are bad for people (p.117-118) pulling this idea from two unnamed studies both from the same organization and to his personal experience with an angry child-patient who became calm with care, then regressed when returned to his dad's restriction-free home which happened to include video games. His unscientifically sound concluded it was the video games that made the kid act aggressively.

    As a lifetime video game player I reject this conclusion and wish to direct your and Amen's attention to the American Psychological Association's wishy-washy, but more correct & accurate state of videogame violence research:

    As a book reader I'd look elsewhere for insight, help, and mastery over your brain. For serious problems see as many psychiatrists as you need to find one you want to employ. For mood problems try Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy - it's cheaper than Amen's....more info
  • Great food for thought...for everyone

    Dr. Amen takes a very complicated subject and turns it into something anyone with a brain can understand and enjoy. He starts by expressing the importance of brain awareness, providing plenty of anecdotes and anatomical information. Throughout the book, he cites more studies than I can count, which is good because it backs his information up nicely, but is somewhat unnerving because there is little mention of how the studies were carried out. The technical jargon is kept to a minimum, which is a huge benefit for most people. Personally, I would have liked more technical information, especially with regards to his treatments. Many times it seems like a big advertisement for his clinic, which is ok because they are all positive cases, but still, rather than giving a once over of many patients, I would have appreciated more in-depth analysis of case studies. Despite these sentiments, the book was well written, albeit redundant in many places, and is very enjoyable for anyone interested in neuroscience or simply trying to improve his/her brain.

    Book Content:

    At his clinics, Dr. Amen utilizes Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) imaging. Two types of processing are performed. The first shows holes where there is less than 45% brain activity in an area. The second type shows where there is the highest 15% of activity. By looking at the brain under certain conditions, Dr. Amen is able to see where the brain is working the hardest and where it is struggling. This in turn allows him to truly see what we are doing to our brains when we do the things we do. This includes anything from depriving the brain of sleep or ingesting too much caffeine, to doing heavy drugs. He is also able to see changes with certain disorders (i.e. dementia, ADD, depression, etc...), making it useful for calculating the effect of a certain treatment, or looking at potential risk factors.

    Dr. Amen starts the book by discussing the importance of the brain, and how it is involved in everything you do. While this sounds obvious, it is important to recognize that differences between brains result in differences in types of people. For instance, he talks about types of mothers, and how their personalities, which then shape you as a child, can be traced back to their brains. If they're guilt-driven mothers, for example, they may have increased activity in the limbic system where the brain houses its emotional centers. Realizing that all the aspects of our lives are driven by our brains is crucial for making changes we all so desperately want to make. Also, an important point that Dr. Amen makes is that in many instances we are hostages of our own brains. Some of the actions people do can be traced back to problems with their brains. He notes specific examples when he was asked to testify in court about the brain scan of a certain defendant. In one case the man had sustained severe brain damage (specifically in the prefrontal cortex where judgment is controlled) from falling off a ladder and one day killed his neighbors for cutting his tree. The brain scan was crucial because it showed he lacked the judgment of a healthy person, and because of this testimony the man's sentence, while still severe, was reduced. Pertaining to treatment, the Amen clinic looks at brain images to find the source of the disorder, rather than treating the disorder as a symptom much like many other doctors. Treating the source is much more effective; however it means there is no longer a "one-size fits all" mentality for treatment which has caused America to be such a pill-popping society.

    In other sections, Dr. Amen discusses how soft the brain is, having a consistency similar to custard, and how important it is to protect it. He cites how dangerous contact sports are and how easy it is to permanently damage the brain by hitting it with soccer balls, playing football, or risking accidents by riding motorcycles and mopeds. It is also easy to damage the brain and not realize it. Dr. Amen provides self assessment forms to fill out and aid in determining if brain damage is present. He also supplies information about the main brain systems in a way that anyone can understand. Dr. Amen gives a good deal of detail on the systems, without boring those who don't want the in-depth anatomical explanations.

    In Part II of the book Dr. Amen outlines his clinic's program for "making a good brain great." He discusses the importance of preventing physical harm, as well as eliminating as many unfriendly foreign substances as possible, backing everything up with many of his SPECT images. He talks about food as "brain medicine" and how damaging some foods are while others are crucial for proper brain development and disease prevention. Specifically, Dr. Amen discusses Omega-3 fatty acids quite a bit throughout the book, and how good wild salmon is in our diets. One nice thing about this part of the book is he gives a list of 24 extremely healthy foods that should be in our diets every week, including specific recipes, most of which are his personal favorites. Later in the book, Dr. Amen discusses specific supplements individually, citing studies and recommending daily intakes for different types of people. Aside from what we take in, the book talks about brain workouts, perception vs. reality, the importance of music, ways of de-stressing including meditation, risk factors for different disorders, how to get help, and lastly he outlines a 15 day plan to get your brain working better, which I intend to start soon.

    The structure of the book, as previously described, was extremely effective since it established a knowledge base and gradually got more specific with information, finishing with his clinic's 15 day plan. For the structure, Dr. Amen broke the book up into many chapters, some as short as 4 pages, which was very effective....more info
  • recommended by Tufts
    I get Tuft University's health newsletter and this book was recommended. There are so many books out there these days which cover this topic, it was helpful to have a recommendation from such a reputable source. I'll be using this book!...more info
  • making a good brain great
    A thought-provoking an informative book, it provides new insight into the mind-brain system and has made me rethink my own thought processes. Sounds redundant, but it's true! Love the book....more info
  • Outstanding
    This is an outstanding book; easy to read, useful tips, and written in a way that will engage the reader....more info
  • Excellent book
    This is an excellent book: informative, clear, and packed with practical suggestions. Current brain research coupled with a wealth of individual case studies makes this a valuable guide....more info
  • A must read for thinking people
    This book is great. It's a must for anyone who wants to know how to prolong and promote healthy brain functioning. It's full of useful advise on achieving this. It's one of the books that shall be read many more times 'cause it's that informative....more info
  • Wonderful book
    Good reading for how we can improve our brain power. Lot of medical details (maybe too much for me sometimes). Good information on foods that are good for your brain and also exercise and sports....more info
  • Provides sound information
    What I enjoy about this product is it is on CD. This allows me to listen to the information in my car while driving. It's nice to have options of books or CD for those of us that are constantly on the go and over worked with our eyes reading.

    Thanks for offering a product that helps develop one's productivity with tools of thought through the CD version....more info
  • Good, but......................
    The book offers very good and helpful information. The problem is that a times, the language gets way too technical for the average non-professional like me. It had a tendency to "bog down" occasionally....more info
  • Wonderful information
    This book is great. It is truly a guide to improve our brains. This book is a must for anyone that cares about their health and mind. Many of the points he brings out are things I really hadn't thought about like, pollution, sleep and being deprived of proper nutrients. This book tells us how to improve our brains/minds in as little as 15 days. Must have book....more info
  • Fascinating and Life Changing
    I can't believe that this book is not better known. The implications of it are enormous. It is well written and logically organized and has tons of practical information for ways to more effectively use your brain. Yes, much of it is common sense, but the writer backs it up with evidence I hadn't read before. As a result, I've begun taking fish oil supplements, eating differently, working suduko puzzles and cutting back on alcohol and coffee. If I have one criticism of this book it is that there is almost too much in it. You hardly know where to begin.

    I think a critic could say that Dr. Amen is self-promotional, and that the book is a long ad for his clinic. But I took this information to be the product of real enthusiasm for his work.

    While this book can't answer all the mysteries of the brain, and while it can't hope to be a tool for diagnoses, it is well worth the time to read it and think about the beneficial changes you can make....more info
  • Dr Georgia D. Andrianopoulos, author "Retrain your Brain Reshape your Body"
    Making a good brain better is a wonderful evolution to Dr Amen's previous guide to brain fitness. The tools and actions described in "Retrain your Brain Reshape your Body" add to Dr Amen's steps to a healthier brain, the necessary first step before undertaking any weight loss program. The neuroscientific tools in "Retrain Your Brain Reshape your Body" will make it easier to carry-out Dr Amen's program. When the two are combined you are more likely to succeed in weight loss and boost quality of life. ...more info
  • Waste of time and money
    exercise, proper diet and supplements may help your brain function - wow I didn't know that !...more info
  • very easy to comprehend & quite informative
    The way that this book is written is quite general and uses laymans terms. It was very easy to understand and read quite smoothly. The chapters thread into one antoher making the educational process that much easier....more info
  • Well, here's another 2 cents, or in Praise of Excellence (Neurologist-Psychiatrist)
    It is difficult to add significantly to the many high rating this book has already earned from esteemed colleagues, but Amen has another winner. Using the information that he's garnered over his years of looking at both Patients and the SPECT scans, he has developed some rational and excellent guidelines to making the most out of the one brain we have.

    From regular exercise, playing music, fish oil, acetyl carnitine, ginkgo biloba, an intimate relationship, and social activities to the avoidance of excess alcohol, nicotine, trans fats, sports without a helmet; he has organized a superb collection of practical ways to make and keep a good brain great.

    I circulate a copy of this CD to my patients, because it is easy to understand; and his interventions are very doable. While none of his ideas were especially foreign to me, his recognition of their worth and organization of his book is especially valuable.

    My fantasy is that his book with help at least one parent see the foolishness of letting their children risk lifelong brain damage by ignoring proper brain protection.

    This book is well worth reading.
    ...more info
  • My two cents... (review by former research scientist)
    I think the two top reviews are very well written, so I am not going to revisit the same territory. In essence, I agree with everything they said. This book is loaded with sound advice, good references, supplement recommendations, etc.

    What I wanted to add is that it is a very readable, practical and enjoyable book for anyone. For anyone with a brain (all of us!), it's an inexpensive investment in return for a lifetime of benefits. Dr. Amen focuses a lot on prevention of problems, especially those related to aging and the brain. As a former biochemist, his suggestions make sense and I have implemented them in my own life.

    If you are on SSRIs (e.g. Zoloft), have ADD/ADHD or other issues, there is a lot of value added material about how certain supplements can be VERY helpful and as effective as some drugs. He also includes warnings where it is appropriate and they seem to lean on the conservatie side.

    I don't have any reservations about this book or the credibility of the author. It's a "no brainer" decision from my perspective, I don't know of one that is better and I read a lot!...more info
  • Learning How Our Brain Works
    This is a scientific book written in layman's language about the functioning of the brain. It contains self tests to determine if the reader has any problem area. Then, suggestions for improvement are offered. Learned so much....more info
  • Fine guide to keeping your brain in tip-top shape
    I found this a valuable book. Overall, there is fair amount of information. There are no breakthrough insights for optimizing the health of your brain. There's just some practical advice along with explanations of the basic science behind the advice. If you are a regular reader of science and health information, you likely already know a fair amount of the info in this book. Eat right. Exercise. Avoid drugs. Don't get a head injury. Take some supplements. Meditate. Listen to relaxing music. And so on. However, Amen presents the material in an authoritative way, so his insights seem like the product of a huge amount of experience dealing with patients in his clinic.

    One thing I liked is that this book does a better job than other health books at working at some level of sophistication in explaining neurophysiological changes going on in the brain. Just to take one example: exercise. Everybody knows exercise improves health and well being. But, for me, I didn't have a real understanding of how aerobic exercise would translate into better brain functioning. One fact I learned is that exercise increases levels of nitric oxide "which helps keep blood vessel walls open and round." If someone is a couch potato, then their levels of nitric oxide will drop and their blood vessels will become constricted and distorted, making them less capable of carrying blood to needed areas of the brain. This restricted flow eventually can lead to full-blown strokes which cut off blood flow completely for some time. Again, just a tidbit, nothing revelatory, but this is one more piece of the puzzle of the brain and its functioning. There are a lot of pieces like that are good to know. Of course, this is only at one level of explanation. One would have to go much deeper to understand the neurophysiology of healthy brain functioning.

    I would have liked a better defense of the use of SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) imaging. I had never heard of it. I wonder why almost nobody is using it. Such scans are the basis for almost all of the clinical diagnoses throughout the book. If it is as effective as Amen indicates I am surprised that so few doctors use it. Amen does give some reasons why doctors have been slow to adopt SPECT imaging, although it is hard to judge whether his explanation (basically, doctor's are slow adopters) is correct. Dr. Amen could well be a pioneer of a new method of diagnosis which takes advantage of a rich source of information. I'm not qualified to judge the value of SPECT imaging.

    There is of course one problem with any book of this sort. On the one hand, I am extremely impressed by the insights of a physician who can call on the experience of having interpreted over 30,000 patients' brain images. On the other hand, there is the problem in having to accept the authority of someone simply because of their credentials. There's no way to know just reading the book that Amen's explanations of the illnesses are correct. Presumably some degree of simplification is necessary to appeal to a popular audience. But a Freudian psychoanalyst could claim to have examined the same number of patients and arrived at an authoritative diagnosis even though much Freudian psychoanalysis is bunk. I wish I could determine whether some of the more controversial claims are warranted. For example, Amen is extremely conservative about the amount of blunt-force impact that is acceptable for a growing brain. He says that if he had his way no child would ever do a drill practicing bouncing soccer balls on her head. He takes pains to point out how his expertise supports this conclusion. This kind of claim is something for which I would have liked to see more evidence to back it up.

    Amen does a decent job in many places of citing extensive references for some of his conclusions. For example, he advocates taking supplements to improve brain health, and there are numerous references to studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Here too, however, I found him somewhat ambiguous about the value of some supplements for healthy people. Is the supplement (vinpocetine, Acetyl-L-carnitine, ginkgo biloba, CoQ10, etc.) only indicated for those suffering from or likely to suffer from conditions like senile dementia? Often Amen doesn't say. For example, he says that "the prettiest brains I have seen are those on ginkgo," implying that healthy people might benefit, but he advises only those "at risk for memory problems or stroke or suffer from low energy or decreased concentration" to consider taking ginkgo. Who doesn't suffer from these problems at times? Maybe everyone might benefit. From what I have read, there is mixed evidence for the value of ginkgo for healthy people. Amen doesn't discuss this issue. I found such omissions disappointing. After all, I want to "make a good brain great," not just make a bad brain better. Many times I would have liked Amen to be more thorough in his treatment of a topic.

    My impression of books of this type is that overall they are a valuable read, although, when I consider the total amount of knowledge I have accumulated having read them, I can't help but feel that I haven't really learned all that much.

    All said, this is easy reading. I enjoyed a lot of the research anecdotes, where Amen would give a glimpse of a recent study that had been done. For example I found interesting the "proof" that "beautiful women make men stupid". In one study, men who were shown pictures of beautiful women showed a greater likelihood of accepting $15 immediately rather than waiting a few days for $75. And there is a short explanation of why this might be the case. Again, not terribly complex analysis--just an idea to get you thinking about something. This kind of anecdote is the kind of thing Steven Pinker is a master at (see How the Mind Works). You can also find this style of explanation and citation used well in Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness. Amen uses this method to good effect.

    All in all, I found this a quick and valuable read. It has some nice tips about tweaking one's mental performance; along the way I think I learned more than a thing or two about how the brain functions....more info
  • Good reference book
    This book has some good guidelines for brain exercises, food, and supplements....more info
  • Table Tennis vs. Ping-Pong
    I notice that Dr. Amen recommends table tennis as the very best sport to improve your brain. Of course he is not suggesting that basement ping-pong will do the trick. He recommends investing in a skilled table tennis coach who will teach you the correct strokes. I would add that it should be one who will also teach you the new international, competative rules to gain the maximum benefit for your brain. What other sport combines speed and eye-hand coordination with exercise for every muscle group? This book and this sport recommendation is for every age category. Great recommendation Dr. Amen!!!...more info
  • Should use his "great brain" to make this book better
    I often wonder about the reviews here and question a 5 star rating. The author's relatives must have reviewed this book. I found this book very repetitive and not enlightening in the least. I gave up after about one third of the book. Don't waste your time....more info
  • Brainpower to the Max!
    Hi I not smart man. I reed Dr. Amen book mak mee more smarter. Reeding slow. Amen yooz two meny big wurdz. Ask Peggy help but Peggy say two bizee go away.

    Finish chapter 1 by myself. Head hurt. Dont know I am getting smarter.

    Finished another chapter. I think I understand better, like a cloud is lifting from how I look at the world.

    I am now halfway through the book, and my thoughts are no longer as confused and muddled as before. In fact, with my newfound clarity, I feel confident I can return to school and get my highschool diploma.

    I am nearly finished with the book, and I realize now that high school would be a waste of my time. I will enroll at the local university and study physics, mathematics, music, history, and philosophy.

    Having completed the book, I am eager to fill my mind with the knowledge and experience denied to me by my former limitations. My university classes engage and stimulate me, but I require more. Tomorrow I will enroll in all the courses offered at the University, including the graduate ones.

    I have completed studies equivalent to 32 PhDs, yet I still hunger for more. I awoke this morning from a fitful sleep, having drifted into slumber composing a twelve-part trans-harmonic fugue over Bloch's higher Chow group inconsistencies with motivic cohomology, and felt my mind struggling to achieve transcendence as the dawn broke. In an epiphanic flash, the scales fell from my eyes and I perceived the truth and unity of the world. More important, I instinctively felt how my expanding consciousness might exert control beyond the ambits of the flesh.

    The being who began this review no longer exists in corporeal form and has merged with the All. Its singular perspective has become infinite in your time and space. Its last desire was to thank Dr. Amen for his book, without which none of this would have been possible....more info
  • Optimize your mental performance
    Dr. Amen begins this book by stressing the importance of the brain. The brain is where "you" reside. It's the seat of loving, living, being, learning, thinking, working.... The brain weighs three pounds, but uses 30% of the energy the human body consumes. Yet, the brain is a fragile miracle housed in a thin-walled bony bowl. It's easily damaged by physical trauma, emotional trauma, drugs, disease, and poor dietary habits.

    Because of the brain's fragility and the common disregard for it, brain dysfunction is so widespread that it's normal. Perhaps it's because we don't see our brains, but most of us never address the issue of actually caring for our brains. Many brain-related problems are preventable. With a healthy brain, you can fully engage in life, meet its challenges, and be happy. Few of us choose this option, and that's probably due to a lack of good information on the subject.

    Dr. Amen has analyzed thousands of brain scans. Consequently, he's been able to correlate specific brain dysfunction with specific actions people take. He has been able to go beyond observing outward behavior to observing inward behavior--how the brain responds to what is done to it.

    What are some ways you may be drilling holes in your boat as you float along in the sea of stupidity? To avoid sinking, become familiar with these and don't do them! Here are some paraphrased examples from Dr. Amen's book:

    Doing cigarettes. Whether you have one in your mouth or someone else does, you are still breathing in the same chemicals. The resulting vasoconstriction reduces blood flow through the carotid arteries, but also reduces blood flow through the brain's blood distribution system. In addition, this reduced blood is diminished because it's loaded with carbon monoxide rather than oxygen. While smokers may temporarily experience increased concentration, their overall brain functions are reduced dramatically. If you want to be stupid, smoke.

    Eating highly-processed foods. These are "nutrient-challenged," to say the least. And they trigger whole set of hormonal and other effects that work against proper brain function. Shop in the produce section, and avoid foods that come in boxes.

    Avoiding tough work. Brains, like muscles, follow the "use it or lose it" principle. If your job doesn't provide a good brain workout (and most jobs don't--they mostly challenge your ability to deal with bureaucracy and rudeness), find something that does.

    Doing the same things all the time. When you try something new, you stimulate your brain into forming new connections. This activity increases overall brainpower.

    Being a sloth. The brain is a physical organ. Physical fitness is a "doorway" to mental fitness.

    Avoiding coordination-based activities. When you reinforce the brain-body connection by learning a new physical skill, you provide the brain with massive stimulus. If you are already a regular participant in a particular sport, that's great. But, you've already built those brain pathways and much of the benefit is already "cashed in." Now find another sport to build more brain pathways. Look for a sport that requires a different set of motor skills.

    In this book, you'll also find a wealth of information on positive actions you can take to maintain and improve brain health. I'm pretty excited by this whole topic. Now that I've learned about the Amen Clinic, I'm going to investigate them further on their Website--and consider getting a brain scan myself.

    A note on the writing: I was pleased that Dr. Amen and his publisher made this text clear and followed the rules of grammar. This shows they care about their message. After reading this book, I can see why they do....more info