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The New Brain: How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind Hardcover – August 23, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (August 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579545017
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579545017
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #547,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Restak (Mozart's Brain), a neurosurgeon and popular science writer on the brain, focuses on new technology for examining the physiology of the brain (such as MRI) and how it allows us to monitor and control a far wider range of activities than was formerly possible. Recent work holds the potential for, among other things, reducing the use of psychopharmacological drugs that have unpredictable side effects; substituting one sense (touch) for another (sight); and direct repair of brain and other neurological damage. Restak also demonstrates how the brain is modified the old-fashioned way, such as by practicing a skill. The negative aspects of recent work are invoked in more polemical than scientific prose, such as the specter of social control through "medicalization" of everything, and how the overstimulation of our brains by modern society is giving us all ADD. Hackles will rise the farthest over the author's proclamation that it is proven that TV violence affects our brains in ways that lead to violent behavior without even mentioning the word "censorship." A compact if sometimes oversimplified introduction to its subject, Restak's latest is best when it stays close to the data.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Scientific American

Pity the poor neurologists of yesteryear, saddled as they were with their conviction that our brains are hardwired after childhood. Then celebrate today’s scientists, who are exploiting brain-imaging technologies to show that our brains are capable of profound and permanent alterations throughout our lives. Neurologist Richard Restak does just that in The New Brain: How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind, even as he argues that we are being negatively altered by the sound-bite, techno environment in which we live. Technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, Restak begins, can now demonstrate that as a musician practices for many hours, certain neural pathways are strengthened. He then moves to a profound implication, namely that all kinds of technological stimuli are forging brain circuits that may hurt us instead of helping us. For instance, he cites correlations between positron emission tomography scans of violent people and normal experimental subjects who are simply thinking about fighting, then asserts that repeated viewing of violence on television and in video games can set up brain circuits that make us more likely to initiate realworld fisticuffs. Unfortunately, such brain imaging may leave more questions than answers. As Restak himself points out, the technology does not provide "neurological explanations," just "important correlations." Yet he is whipped up enough to diagnose all of modern society with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the probable result of brain changes we are initiating in our media-saturated world. He reminds us of the antidote, though: we are still in control of what we allow ourselves to see and hear. In the end, Restak fails to create a sense that scientists have revealed a new way of understanding the brain. And the images that inspire speculation in the book still await research that may finally reveal the mechanisms of such phenomena as memory and aggression.

Chris Jozefowicz


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Every sentence provides more information, instead of just filling up a book.
K.
Dr. Restak concludes, " If you want to learn a new skill or make use of new knowledge, you must change your brain".
Rick A. Parsons
The New Brain is an excellent summary of current research and cutting edge technology.
C. Bauer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Atheen M. Wilson on May 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Although Restak's book The New Brain has nothing dramatically new with respect to research, it definitely puts what has emerged from recent research into better perspective for the amateur. Essentially it brings together under specific headings much of what has been learned by various mind/brain researchers through fMRI and PET scan studies, and does it in a very readable and understandable form. A neurologist and neuropsychiatrist at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington D. C., Restak has published 18 or more books on the topic of mind science, putting it into public formats like books and popular television programs.

Among the more interesting topics, I found that on the plasticity of the brain the most significant. I started out my career in nursing on a neurology ward, and at the time it was almost a given that damage to the central nervous system was irreparable and deficits that arose from it irreversible. The goal for most of the patients with strokes from occlusion or cerebral bleed was rehabilitation of the functional side of the body and learning to deal with whatever communication problems remained. It was often repeated that whatever deficits had not resolved after the subsidence of cerebral edema would be permanent. The new research indicates that this is not only not true, but that focusing on strengthening the "good" side actually prevented the "bad" side from healing properly. The marvelous sense of hope that the new data provide is incredible.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Farrell VINE VOICE on March 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a very thought provoking book about how our brains are wired and how they work.

The book is very readable and does a good job of explaining how our brains work and how research is showing that our brains are much more elastic and dynamic than previously believed.

I believe that any parent or teacher must read the chapter 'More Images Than Ever'. Restak looks at how various parts of the brain work together to control our behavior and the effect of television and movie images on this wiring. He's careful to point out that this is current theory, and not absolute fact.

When I'd finished this chapter I resolved to change the kind of images that I allow myself to be exposed to, and to be much more careful about what my children see.

Overall this is a positive book that looks to a future where we are much more aware of how our brains function and how to use them and expand our capabilities in benefical ways.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on August 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Our brains are changing, says Dr. Richard Restak in his latest book, an engaging tour of the frontiers of modern brain research. According to him, we are entering the age of the New Brain where new technologies like genetic mapping and imaging technology will reveal to us for the first time the mysterious secrets hidden within our skulls. And he is superbly qualified to lead us on this adventure into neuroscience.
Dr. Restak is a neurologist and neuropsychiatrist and an expert in brain function and the ongoing research of brain physiology and development. He is a clinical professor of neurology at George Washington Medical Center in the nation's capital and author of more than 15 books on the brain and brain function and appears often in the national media as a popular commentator on scientific research.
What, in general, is the book about? Well, it is about genetic mapping, imaging technology, psychopharmacology, the fact that our brains are working differently from how they did a century ago, in what manner and why the demands of our modern world are bringing about changes in the brain itself, the dramatic new treatments that can repair damage in the brain, the way new drugs can influence how the brain operates and what behaviors can and will result, and the probability that technology, rather than biology, will play the major role in the evolution of the human brain.
This is a compact book (only 212 pages of text) for books dealing with such complex topics, but that may well be to its advantage. It is, after all, written for the ordinary person and not the expert and therein lies its value. Members of the general public need to know what is going on in the area of modern brain research and what impact some of the new technologies in neuroscience may have on their lives.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By a professional student on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In my undergrad days it was still taught that the human brain did not develop past a certain age, and that damage to portions of the brain were irreversible... Today we know this is false. "The New Brain" begins in the first chapter with a discussion about Brain Plasticity - how the brain changes (and grows in ability) as we use it, and as functions become 'hard-wired.'

For me, the first four chapters were the most interesting because they deal directly with the implications of Brain Plasticity... (Chap 2, Genius and Superior Performance; Chap 3, Attention Deficit; and chap 4, The effect of images on the brain)

The remaining chapters go in different directions on the general theme of "what's new" with the brain via brain research techniques, drugs, new treatments, etc.

Here is my humble critique: Restak is good at introducing new ideas, but where he falls just a little short is in engaging the reader with real critical discussion. Along those lines, he gives examples and statistics without really explaining what the experiment measured, or what the numbers really mean. For example in p203, he gives a diagram of measured P3 latency, but he doesn't tell you what this is actually measuring...He does, however tell you what it should mean for the discussion. Although the reader has no reason to distrust his interpretation, it would be nice if he presented just a few more concrete details. There are sections in which one may feel he is editorial-izing much, and teaching us very little about the new brain. Still...it's a good read, hence 3 stars... think of it as a cool conversation over drinks - not concrete enough to expand your knowledge, but compelling enough to perhaps change some behavior.
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