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Carved in Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife Hardcover – April 3, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 311 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060598697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060598693
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,282,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Memory loss and other cognitive problems are increasingly the bugaboo of aging baby boomers, as well as many of their elders. In her first book, veteran journalist Ramin turns herself into a guinea pig as she seeks ways to restore her own failing memory and growing inability to concentrate. Looking at a wide variety of genetic, biochemical and environmental factors that slow the connections among the brain's 100 billion neurons, especially in the hippocampus, Ramin undertakes 10 interventions, methods of achieving her cognitive enhancement. She logs the ups and downs of medications such as Adderall and Provigil; she looks at dietary supplements and biofeedback. She ends with discussions with experts, such as Nobelist Eric Kandel, about what keeps some people mentally young into old age; the key seems to be having the "mental reserves" gained from challenging one's mind with new kinds of learning—such as learning a new language or studying art—that use different parts of the brain; the right diet and exercise also help. Overall, the variety of perspectives and the wealth of scientific information Ramin provides, as well as her warm personal style, will reward readers and may well help them stay mentally sharp. (Apr. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sometime after her fortieth birthday, journalist Ramin, who counts on her wits and recall, began forgetting the names of people and common objects. She was also having difficulty focusing for longer than it took to look up a synonym for the word whatchamacallit. She was so distressed that her first reaction was to conceal her handicap. She discovered, however, that many friends and associates, all about her age, were suffering the same symptoms and also trying to keep them secret. For the good of others in the same boat, she decided to throw herself on the sword, admit her incapacity, and offer herself as guinea pig as well as reporter to research midlife cognitive breakdown and the interventions available to ameliorate it. Her meaty memoir and science report reveals that there are nearly as many reasons for midlife memory loss (forgetfulness doesn't always presage Alzheimer's) as there are people who suffer from it, and that there are several tests to determine specific causes in addition to numerous resources to correct the root problem. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This book reads like a novel.
Wayne & Tamara Mitchell
'Carved in Sand by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin is a must read for anyone interested in how the brain functions and what happens as it ages.
J. Brandeis
Carved in Sand is engaging, easy to read, yet very informative and funny all at the same time.
Raines Rogers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 69 people found the following review helpful By David Duncan on April 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cathryn Jakobson Ramin has written a wonderful bit of storytelling about something we all will face one day -- the loss of memory. Weaving in her own story of mild, but highly annoying memory loss and her search to remember, she provides a snapshot of where science is right now with it's knowledge of the physiology of memory. She describes the drugs that enhance cognitive-function, and gives common-sense descriptions and advice about how to eat, sleep and meditate to improve our minds and memory. Her voice is strong and witty and fun -- and authoritative. Her research has been exhaustive. Although the book professes to be about fading memory in midlife, it is really about that hugely mysterious realm of the mind and what we remember. Read this book!
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J. Doyle on September 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The big question for all of us in the middle age bracket is this: When we draw a blank when searching for a word or a person's name--is this normal forgetfulness or are we suffering from something much scarier? In this well-researched book, Cathryn Jakobson Ramin does an excellent job of presenting possible reasons for memory lapses and ways to deal with them.

In addition to having her brain and body tested for what might be the cause of her own memory lapses, the author interviewed many people and performed extensive research on the topic. She found that how you treat your brain in middle age will make a difference later. Midlife is the time to act: to make good decisions on diet, stress management, sleeping habits, and exercise.

She writes that today's world is an especially difficult time to reach middle age as we are "smack in the middle of a technological revolution." We can be overwhelmed by the amount of information available and the endless stream of interruptions, multitasking, and over stimulation.

In very readable prose, she explains how our minds are affected by the foods we consume, our hormones, the drugs we take, the chemicals in the environment, our sleep patterns, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and the amount of exercise that we get. Since we need to build up our cognitive reserve to keep mentally active, she gives tips on how to perform these "intellectual push-ups."

In spite of the seriousness of the subject, this book is a pleasure to read and even funny at times.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Jason Roberts on April 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book isn't just a timely discussion of an important topic, it's impressively well-written. Ramin wears her (impressive) learning lightly, threading her own experience, and that of others, into a beautifully-rendered counterpoint to the cutting-edge science she's surveying. I was reminded of books like A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES or THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMNA--it's that kind of solid but compulsively readable book.

Even if you're not in personal panic-mode about your own memory, this is a fascinating survey of how new theories and technologies are informing our very notions of awareness and the mind. Prepare to be not only informed, but fascinated.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Thomas on July 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
...along comes this book that lets you know that you are not alone. This is a scary subject for many of us who have "senior moments" and may be having them more frequently. Cathryn Jakobson Ramin explores what may (or may not) be going on inside our skulls and, along the way, shows what's being done to stop and sometimes reverse the process. The fact that she approaches the subject with humor helps to ease the seriousness (and fear) of the situation.

Ms Ramin explores the cutting-edge in brain research and guides the reader to understand complex issues.

This is a MUST READ for anyone 50 and older!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sahra Badou on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sometimes I don't remember where I put my keys, not realizing I am holding them in my hands. I am sure this happened (or will happen) to all of us. This book will help you understand why this happens. This book explores the dark regions of the human brain, and will make you understand exactly what's going on in the brain from the perspectives of physiology, psychology, and sociology. This book is a must for everyone over 40 years old, who know just how unnerving, frustrating, and terrifying forgetfulness is. Do you wonder sometimes why you keep repeating yourself, saying the same thing over and over again in a conversation with someone? The author does a great job exploring the factors that determine how well--or poorly--one's brain will age.

Did President Clinton lie when he said he forgot many of the events during his sex scandal trial? According to the author, Clinton is only human, and like all of us past out mid-life, are prone to forgetfulness. Saying `I forgot' or `I can't remember' does not mean the person is lying. We sometimes forget where we put something we are holding in our hand!

The chapter on Alzheimer was very fascinating. According to the author, even if Alzheimer is a genetic disease, genes are written in pencil, and we have the eraser. There are cases where one of twin siblings gets Alzheimer, while the other does not. In the US, 4.5 million people have Alzheimer. President Reagan had Alzheimer. According to the author, it has cost the US 91 billion so far to treat people with Alzheimer.

So what can one do to protect himself against Alzheimer? According to the author, you must exercise your brain, just like you exercise your abs.
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