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Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain's Potential Paperback – October 22, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Most of us would like to be smarter," asserts Restak (The Brain, companion to PBS's series by the same name), neuropsychiatrist and clinical professor of neurology at George Washington University Medical Center. Restak claims that improving cognition is the answer. In accessible science-teacher style, Restak delineates the brain's attributes, from its weight (three pounds) to the number of nerve cells (100 billion) and its infinity of synapses, explaining what aids communication, informs memory and so forth. Knowing how the brain works is important to building its power, says Restak, and in this high-tech age, we need as much cognition as we can get. He proposes a comprehensive and handy plan to improve one's mind, literally as well as literarily. If one stops learning, one's overall mental capacity diminishes because the synaptic links shrink. Brain stimulation has been declared protection against Alzheimer's. The brain does not age; keeping it "fit" is no more difficult than keeping one's cholesterol under control. In outlining a plan including everything from exercise to learning to play a musical instrument, Restak explains how interconnections between the brain's functions keep it growing. Train your brain through logic problems, complicated games like chess, difficult jigsaw puzzles and widely varied reading. Not surprisingly, watching TV, a passive act, does exactly what your mother always said it did makes you stupid. The extraordinary range of references to literature, science, gamesmanship and even cryptograms makes it apparent that Restak practices what he preaches. This unusual, intriguing book will appeal to the health diligent and the senior contingent.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Neuropsychiatrist Restak (neurology, George Washington Univ. Medical Ctr.) has written numerous books on the human brain, including the very engaging The Brain Has a Mind of Its Own. In his latest work, he offers 28 ways to improve mental fitness, including exercises to enhance memory, concentration, creativity, and analytical ability. The proposed exercises are designed to increase neuronal linkages that will, in turn, improve overall mental functioning. Some of Restak's suggestions require a hefty time expenditure, adequate financial resources (a laptop computer), strong joints and flexibility (tai chi exercises), and a private office equipped with a couch (napping during the work day!). But his point is well taken: practicing simple mind games, listening to music, reading widely, keeping a journal, etc., can greatly enhance the brain's performance. Restak's upbeat and enlightening guide will certainly be a popular addition to public libraries. Laurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition (October 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609810057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609810057
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joshua Allen on July 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
If I had read the reviews here, I never would have bought this book. Boy am I glad I bought this book first!

I won't deny that the writing style is a bit inconsistent (but the author does, after all, admit in the pages of this very book that he sometimes forces himself to write a certain number of pages per hour, which presumably takes precedence over consistency). I also would not deny that some of the chapters are more useful than others. For example, I found the space devoted to a literary description of how to do Tai Chi rather puzzling (if you want to learn Tai Chi, take physical lessons from someone who knows).

However, the fundamental high-level lessons of this book are backed up by research and are worth the price of the book alone. The basic lessons are things like: a) strengthening one part of your brain can strengthen others b) exercising the brain can help it work better c) there are many different types of cognition (cognition is not IQ), and all of these areas can be trained d) you can grow new neurons, the brain is more plastic than we originally believed, and your brain can actually get better with age.

These lessons are invaluable, and anyone who takes these lessons to heart should be actively seeking out new and creative ways to give his or her brain a continual full-brain workout. Much of the book is devoted to ideas about how to do just this; how to exercise the brain. But rather than pick apart each individual idea, you should view this as just a tiny sample of the sorts of things you can do to condition the brain, and an affirmation that creatively generating such brain-conditioning exercises is a useful lifelong goal.

Does it work? Since beginning my full-brain workout program, my scores on ThinkFast have gone up a number of levels and I sure *feel* smarter. You'll have to judge your own results for yourself.
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Format: Hardcover
Mozart's Brain and The Fighter Pilot is an interesting book about how the brain works, which parts of the brain control different activities, and what exercises you might conduct to exercise your brain. Unfortunately, the writing straddles between the author's academic background and what might be interesting to the average reader. The end result is a book that seems like random, rambling recollections and anecdoates of a smart man, but lazily written. I was never sure if his assertions were backed by facts or if they were just speculation on his part.
Examples of this mixed style:
- Very prescriptive statements: "you should play chess if you want to keep a sharp mind"; "the only way to..."; and a proclivity for great books as being the only books worth reading
- The exercises he suggested are rarely validated by experimental proof.
- Offers specifics where none are needed - "If you are over 35 and you pull your skin back towards your face you will look 10 years younger."
As a last note, I felt the title was misleading. I was looking for more detailed anecdotes about how various types of people's brains worked. The example of Mozart, however, barely covered two pages.
Enjoyable, entertaining, but also frustrating.
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By A Customer on January 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Restak provides 28 ideas in 28 chapters for maintaining an alert mind. Many of the ideas are simply motherhood and apple pie recommendations - reduce stress, concentrate, exercise, etc. And while there are some interesting insights on how the brain works, based on PET scans and recent research, Dr. Restak's recommendations are anecdotal and based on personal experience.

Dr. Restak combines brain facts with his own musings to give the illusion of a scientific basis for his recommendations. However, there are no references to studies that confirm any of Dr. Restak's mind enhancing techniques. On the other hand, playing chess, listening to Mozart and reading more books isn't going to hurt anyone either. A better title might be "Use It or Lose It."
While you won't use this book for reference, it still rates three stars for entertainment.
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Format: Paperback
Usually when I read books on increasing intelligence, I'm disappointed. Usually one or two cliche' strategies surface in such books (with strategies that demonstrate the particular expertise of the author but ignoring many other strategies and forms of intelligence). With this book I was not disappointed.

I did not want to sit down and read this book from cover to cover. The wide variety of strategies required too much gear shifting to allow a fly through reading. I needed a day or two to think about how to apply many of the chapters while a few I just blew off as either already in place or not for me (Example: I already run and lift weights and know I will never make time for tai chi without giving up time for walking/jogging; walking's proven in multiple studies to prevent stroke and obesity...not so with tai chi).

So the selling point of the book (it's variety of strategies) makes it somewhat cumbersome to digest in a night but simultaneously makes the book the best I've seen on increasing intelligence.

Dr. Restak gives 28 strategies (each described in only a few pages). I'd recommend putting this book on the kitchen counter or at the bedside and thinking about a chapter and it's application every day or two.

I especially found interesting the last strategy about using technology to expand intelligence. I've written elsewhere (see review of "How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci") about the common practice of many of genius caliber to write in a journal. Dr. Restak takes the practice a step further to explain how journaling with current technology may enhance intelligence even further. The book's worth reading for the thoughts in this last chapter alone.
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