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Making a Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program for Achieving and Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance Hardcover – October 11, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
In order to make muscles grow, one must eat right, exercise and force the muscles to do new things; the same is true of one's brain-which is just one of the things to learn from this short but informative audiobook from one of the world's leading experts on how the brain works. Works of this sort usually aren't well suited to audio, and this one is no exception. Unless listeners are studiously taking notes while listening, they will need to find a hard copy when the time comes to apply Amen's advice. However, Amen's friendly and warm narration relates the precepts of his brain-boosting program in a way that makes them easy to understand and absorb. The audiobook becomes repetitive when Amen tries to reinforce certain points, but this production is otherwise enjoyable and will leave listeners eager to implement some of the strategies outlined. Amen is a renowned keynote speaker and frequently appears on TV, so there's no surprise that his engaging and exuberant style makes this a fascinating exploration of how the brain works.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“This book is wonderful. It gives the reader great understanding and hope that changes in oneself can be made. If you put these changes into action, a happy and healthy brain is yours.” —Bill Cosby
“Each of Daniel Amen’s books contains special nuggets that can be found nowhere else, as well as a wealth of useful, general information that he brings together under one roof. This book offers excellent advice as well as a great deal of new information. An extremely useful and easy-to-read book.” —Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Delivered from Distraction and The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness
“Making a Good Brain Great is the long-awaited synthesis of a true visionary’s work. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in self-improvement, and especially parents and other caregivers of children—this book is a gem for those of us who want to raise healthy kids.” —Michael Gurian, author of The Minds of Boys and The Wonder of Girls
“The most important gift we have to share is wisdom. In this timely book, Dr. Amen shows us how to create a great brain so we can make the world a better place.” —Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., president/medical director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation, and author of The Better Memory Kit and The End of Karma
“A must-read for those who live by their wits.” —Dennis B. Alters, M.D., child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry, and author of Wizard’s Way
Top Customer Reviews
Over the past few years, I have read and often reviewed a number of new books -- many of them on the cutting-edge -- which have reported on or summarized the latest research in brain science and allied disciplines. I am impressed by the amount of work done in brain science during the past few decades and even more impressed with the findings. There is no question about the importance of the research. As Dr. Daniel Amen points out in his new book, "Making a Good Brain Great," our brain is involved in everything we do, it is the most complicated organ in the universe, and our brain can be changed so we can improve our lives. And he provides a program, the "fifteen days to a better brain," to do just that: improve our lives.
This is a very practical book, intended for everyone. Two things about the book that seem to distinguish it from others I have read are the pictures of actual brain scans of real people (showing the brain reacting to various stimuli and in various situations) and the many self-questionnaires and fill-in forms which are provided, enabling anyone to evaluate themselves regarding certain behaviors and attitudes, both healthy and unhealthy. One could really consider it a "workbook" or "activity book" in promoting brain health for improved living. It seems to me it is not merely a book to be "read," but to be used often and consulted regularly; a "user's manual" for a healthy life, so to speak.
A number of recommendations made by Dr. Amen are sure to draw attention and provoke controversy. For instance, he opposes allowing children to hit soccer balls with their heads (the soccer moms will now unite in protest!). He doesn't like children playing tackle football (the dads will now join the soccer moms!). He has "reservations" (I'm being kind here) about many other sports and recreational activities, such as "four-wheeling," which are sure to elicit the charge of "overprotective parent." Moreover, he discusses protecting our brains from "toxic exposure" and we all know what's going to happen now. Not just illicit drugs (which we all know are harmful to our brains -- "This is your brain on..."), but perfectly legal and legitimate drugs come into play.
Alcohol, for example. "At the Amen Clinics we have seen many alcoholics, and they have some of the worst brains of all," says Dr. Amen. OK, so I'm not an alcoholic -- why worry? Well, it seems that "small amounts of alcohol after age twenty-five are okay, but don't push it." How much? Maybe "a glass of wine once a week or once a month...." Read and weep, you party animals, but recognize at least what you are risking.
Nicotine, for example. Well, of course, this is now a given. No one contests anymore the harm done by smoking and its related activities. "Nicotine...constricts blood flow to the brain, eventually causing overall lowered activity and depriving the brain of the nutrients it needs." OK, this is a no-brainer (excuse the pun). Let's move on.
Caffeine, for example. Well, after discussing some of the "bad" effects of this most-common drug (yes! it's a drug), Dr. Amen's advice is simply to use "As little caffeine as possible...if you want to respect and nurture your brain."
Now, is this book nothing more than a list of "do nots"? Is this book recommending a life of utter boredom, a refraining from fun and games, a life that is stifling, dull, and colorless? Far from it. Most of the recommendations are positive and constitute good, practical advice. We want to live well, don't we? We want to be physically healthy, don't we? We want our brains to be around for a long time in a way that permits us to live meaningful and productive lives, don't we? OK, then there are some rules to accept and to integrate into our lives.
These are essentially quite simple: We are what we eat, so eat right; We need to do mental "workouts" to stay in tune; We need to exercise physically to keep in shape; We need to counteract bad stress and rid ourselves of negative thoughts; We need to stay away from activities which may harm our brains and avoid those toxic substances which may poison them. If, per chance, you think this is just too much and you don't how to begin such a regimen -- much less sustain one -- Dr. Amen devotes well over 150 pages to provide you with a program for doing just that, topped off with a whole chapter on "Fifteen Days to a Better Brain."
As if that wasn't enough, the author also includes an appendix about "brain SPECT imaging" which will bring you up-to-date on this amazing technology, a glossary of terms so you know what you're talking about, a list of citations and references for further reading, and a comprehensive index of included topics. "Making a Good Brain Great" is a book I can recommend without any reservation. It is well written and easily understood and, yes, often entertaining. The only ones who won't like this book, I'm sorry to say, are the "brainless" (pun intended!).
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.
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!