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Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power [Kindle Edition]

Dan Hurley
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.95
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

Can you make yourself, your kids, and your parents smarter?

Expanding upon one of the most-read New York Times Magazine features of 2012, Smarter penetrates the hot new field of intelligence research to reveal what researchers call a revolution in human intellectual abilities. Shattering decades of dogma, scientists began publishing studies in 2008 showing that “fluid intelligence”—the ability to learn, solve novel problems, and get to the heart of things—can be increased through training.

But is it all just hype? With vivid stories of lives transformed, science journalist Dan Hurley delivers practical findings for people of every age and ability. Along the way, he narrates with acidtongued wit his experiences as a human guinea pig, road-testing commercial brain-training programs, learning to play the Renaissance lute, getting physically fit, even undergoing transcranial directcurrent stimulation.

Smarter speaks to the audience that made bestsellers out of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain and Moonwalking with Einstein.

Editorial Reviews


“Smarter is an essential read. It's a riveting look at the birth of a new science as well as a user’s manual for anyone who wants to be better at solving problems, learning new things, and coming up with creative ideas.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“Hurley captures the history and mystery of intelligence, but, most of all, the exciting new science of intellectual growth. This may be the most important revolution of our time!”
—Carol Dweck, Author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
“Dan Hurley isolates just what cognitive exercise boosts intelligence.  Anyone who doubts that environment can make a real difference to cognition should start with this book.”
—James R. Flynn author of What is Intelligence
“Filled with beautifully explained science, Smarter is engaging and inspiring, offering much-needed hope to those of us whose smarts seem to be declining. Smarter, in fact, is that rare thing: enjoyable reading that can also improve your life.”
—Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes

About the Author

DAN HURLEY is an award-winning science journalist whose 2012 feature in the New York Times Magazine, "Can You Make Yourself Smarter?" was one of the magazine's most-read articles of the year. In 2013 he published another article for the magazine, "Jumper Cables for the Mind," describing his experience with transcranial direct-current stimulation. He has written on the science of increasing fluid intelligence for the Washington Post and Neurology, and is featured in the 2013 PBS documentary, "Smarter Brains." His books have been excerpted in Wired and Discover magazine. Hurley has written nearly two dozen science articles for the New York Times since 2005.

Product Details

  • File Size: 903 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594631271
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press (December 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00F3KXN4M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,884 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review January 4, 2014
*A full summary of this book is available here: An Executive Summary of Dan Hurley's 'Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power'

The main argument: The idea that we can boost our brain power through interventions of various kinds has been around a long time. Over the years, numerous drugs, diets and other practices (including everything from physical exercise to learning a new language or musical instrument to meditation to even zapping the brain with electrodes) have been purported to pump up our mental strength. And lately, a new practice has been added to this list: brain-training games and exercises. Indeed, in the past decade a whole new industry has emerged around brain-training programs. Built on the premise that specific types of mental activities can strengthen our cognitive skills and add to general intelligence, companies such as Lumosity and LearningRx have convinced millions of paying customers that their product will give them an edge in the brains department.

The more skeptical among us, however, may find ourselves wondering just what is the scientific basis behind all these brain games and other interventions. It was just this thought that occurred to science writer Dan Hurley; and so, following his skeptical sense, Hurley decided to investigate the matter for himself. What Hurley found was a scientific field that, though young, is bustling with activity (and controversy).

The new science of building brain power may be said to have truly kicked off in 2002.
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58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Look at Improving Intelligence December 26, 2013
This book is written by a science writer and so not surprisingly it is very well written. Sometimes scientists don't make the best writers when it comes to popular books. This work by Dan Hurley is interesting, entertaining, and for me at least was quite compelling.

The author has interviewed many of the top researchers in the field and he seems to have reviewed the relevant research. In addition he takes it upon himself to become a guinea pig and undertake an attempt to improve his own intelligence by trying the methods he writes about.

There is a focus in the book on working memory training but he covers all the major research areas for improving cognitive performance - cognitive training, exercise, drugs, music, meditation, brain stimulation, etc. He also includes all of these in his own personal experiment.

I have followed all of this to some degree or another for a number of years and assumed there was somewhat of a consensus among research that this stuff worked, but apparently that is not the case. There are a number of prominent critics and the controversy is well covered in this work. I found it fascinating and enlightening.

I simply loved this book. It is a fun read and quite informative at the same time. I thought I was somewhat informed in this subject but I learned a lot from this book and definitely gained a deeper understanding of the issues.

Highly recommended.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Smarter takes an in-depth look at the science, on-going research, methods and techniques that promise the benefits of cognitive training. More importantly this book attempts to find out whether cognitive training can really improve working memory and boost fluid intelligence. To that extent the book reads in a breezy manner and exposes the reader to all the new science and research out there that is diligently trying to improve brain function.

It is important to point out that it is only later in the book that the real question is broached: whether or not the benefits of cognitive training can be successfully ported to real life. And unfortunately, the jury seems hung on this question. The books points out to evidence where cognitive training has actually helped, and some cases where it did not have any effect .i.e. the benefits from training did not carry over to real life. In my opinion, the place where the book really shines is when the author is interviewing research scientists in this field and we come understand how and why they think the way they do; some of them genuinely believe that brain function can be improved while others simply dismiss the whole enterprise as a sham that has skewed results for its own benefits.

This book is an interesting read but there are a few chapters that completely go off course and don't add anything to what the author set out to prove, especially the one chapter on Down Syndrome. And like other reviewers have pointed out, we dont get to know a lot about the author's cognitive training regimen.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
With rare exception, the best works of non-fiction provide a journey of discovery for their reader and that is certainly true of this one, together with the significant value-added benefit that those who read it accompany Dan Hurley on his own journey of discovery as he attempts to determine whether or not he or anyone else is smart enough to make himself smarter. As he explains, he met with more than 200 eminent scientists and other experts on brain training and road-tested many of the methods on himself. He was his own guinea pig while learning to play the Renaissance lute, joining an intense "boot camp" mental exercise class, attempting mindfulness meditation, and even undergoing transcranial direct-current stimulation ("Jumper Cables for the Mind"). He shares what he learned in this book.

For example:

o Although results vary between and among those who receive mental training, it really can help almost anyone to become smarter.

o Some of these programs are more scientific than others in terms of design, instruction, and measurement.

o Becoming smarter does not necessarily mean becoming wiser.

o Mental training as a science is less than ten years old, in its infancy, and so much more needs to be learned about how it can help make people smarter about becoming smarter.

o One of the most valuable -- and most exciting -- areas of research to explore consists of ways to train certain functions for those who belief in plasticity, "which is really indisputable at this point."

When reflecting back on his journey of discovery, Dan Hurley observes, "If intelligence is calculated by what we do, you hold in your hands the single best measure of mine. My days of training were filled purposeful, challenging tasks of all kinds...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Can you make yourself smarter?
First of all, I love the book cover's graphic of a stick figure whose head is the end of a barbell. It's time to lift some heavy thoughts! Read more
Published 15 days ago by J. Beatta
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Didn't read the book.
Published 16 days ago by Roberta D. Shinhearl
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
helped me build my brain power
Published 1 month ago by Michelle Ballow
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very comprehensive and sometimes surprising report on what may and what won't make you smarter.
Published 2 months ago by JJJJ
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful in Some Aspects - Not What I Was Hoping For Overall
Dan Hurley wants to know what can make him smarter. He’s written a book about the different ways that he can learn to become smarter, including everything from smart drugs to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Thomas J. Quinlan
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
A nice idea and some good research but seemed to wrap up rather quickly.
Published 4 months ago by WTFox
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of ways to get smarter, not all easy for beginners.
There's a lot of interesting research here and I'm glad to have read it: the book is designed as an experiment to test the validity of claims (new tools, research, habits, etc)... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Derek Murphy
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, thought provoking and good fun.
Interesting, thought provoking and good fun.
Published 4 months ago by Gerard Maher
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book. The ending was not what I expected
Good book. The ending was not what I expected, but it was nice to see Dan go through the motions of his motive to become smarter! Fun book. Easy read.
Published 5 months ago by Mkarpinsky
1.0 out of 5 stars it was a great read!
As a Early childhood special education teacher and daughter of a father who is getting Alzheimer's, I was intrigued of the possibility increasing fluid intelligence. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Pamela A Trozera
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More About the Author

I come by my interest in psychology, learning and intelligence the honest way. Back in third grade, when I still couldn't read, my teacher told my mother, "Daniel is a slow learner." But in sixth grade, I received straight A's. In-between, my best friend had started reading Spider-Man and other Marvel comics. When I discovered them, and began writing and drawing my own, my life as a writer began.

My first job after graduating from Beloit College in Wisconsin was to help create and serve as editor of the Clayton Times, based in the suburbs just outside of St. Louis. Determined to write for national publications, I sold a few stories to the National Examiner, a supermarket tabloid, including my first cover story, "I Was Attacked by Killer Bigfoot."

In 2009, after more than 25 years as a freelance science journalist, I wrote a piece for Neurology Today, the official publication of the American Academy of Neurology, about research into drugs that could improve the cognitive abilities of people with Down syndrome. One of the doctors I interviewed, Alberto Costa, had published the first study to show that a drug could immediately improve the ability of mice with a version of Down syndrome to navigate a maze; he was now testing the drug on young adults with Down syndrome. His own daughter, the same age as mine, had been born with the disorder. I ended up writing about Dr. Costa and his search for Down syndrome in the New York Times Magazine.

Then I wondered, "Is it possible to increase the intelligence of people who don't have Down syndrome?" I learned that dozens of studies had been published showing that the intelligence of children, adults and older people, whether healthy or facing cognitive challenges, could be increased through a variety of methods: physical exercise, specially designed computer games, learning a musical instrument, mindfulness meditation, transcranial direct-current stimulation, and more. A handful of prominent skeptics continue to insist that it's all a lot of baloney, that IQ is forever. I've now described the latest research in two other feature articles in the New York Times Magazine. And for my new book, "Smarter," I personally combined all the methods shown to work, including learning to play the Renaissance lute. (That would surprise some of my old friends, who recall my college band, the Mutations, for which I sang songs like "I Hate You" and "I Want Your Body.") As a result of my training, my fluid intelligence increased by 16%.

Another part of my career as a writer is something called 60-Second Novels. Back in 1983, I decided to take my manual Remington typewriter onto Michigan Avenue in Chicago, tape a sign to it that said, "60-Second Novels, Written While You Wait," and see what the heck would happen. It was meant to be an absurd performance-art experiment in which I expected most people to squint at me and tell me to get a job. But like in "The Producers," my bizarro idea turned out to be a success: a line of people formed and started handing me five dollars a pop to talk with them and then write something inspired by our conversation. Within a year I quit my job as an editor at the American Bar Association, moved to New York, and became a full-time 60-Second Novelist, earning as much as $300 a day on the sidewalks of New York. Eventually I started writing 60-Second Novels at corporate and private events around the country. Is this a great country or what??

But after 30 fricking years of it, I'm giving up 60-Second Novels. This science writing thing just might work out.

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