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Maximum Brainpower: Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom Paperback – July 30, 2013
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“Dr. Shlomo Breznitz is, by virtue of his lifelong ingenuity, a rare combination of scientific creativity and sobriety, and decades of research on two of the most important areas of brain research—how to protect the brain from stress and how to develop it through mental exercises—one of the most suitable people on the planet to write this interesting, realistic, practical, clear book on what most people need to do to preserve and maximize their brain capacity. Written with technologist Collins Hemingway, Maximum Brainpower is a wonderfully helpful book, for young and old, on how to keep the brain invigorated and developing into old age. After reading it, you will understand what you must do for your brain, and why you must do it.”—Norman Doidge M.D., New York Times bestselling author of The Brain That Changes Itself
“Everyone knows the importance of physical fitness; less appreciated is the necessity of cognitive fitness. How do you maintain an exercised, stimulated, flexible brain? Start by reading this book.”—David Eagleman, New York Times bestselling author of Incognito
“Maximum Brainpower is well written and each page stimulates the reader to read the next. Moreover, the topic itself—the brain and its secret powers—is profound, rich, and enriching. In other words: Because of its forceful suggestions, its analyses, and its wide knowledge, this book is well worth reading. And re-reading.”—Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and author
“Many of us are petrified of Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, and other maladies that impair the functioning of the brain. Breznitz and Hemingway can deliver no ‘magic bullet’ to prevent dementia. But their book does get you thinking about what you can do to develop and maintain your gray matter, build on the plasticity of the brain, and increase the likelihood that you’ll live not just a longer but a fuller life.”—The Huffington Post
“Most books about healthy brain maintenance just give you the ‘how’; this one tells you why. And it helps you do it.”—Rita Carter, author of Mapping the Mind
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Shlomo Breznitz is the founder of CogniFit, a company devoted to the goal of improving cognitive fitness. The author of seven books and many scientific articles, he has been engaged as a visiting professor by numerous leading institutions, including the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and the London School of Economics.
Collins Hemingway is a writer and technologist who has co-written several books and written innumerable articles for the general public.
From the Hardcover edition.
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It is a very thoughtful and well reasoned book on what is happening to human brains as they age, why our brain was not made for the modern world, why it is important to challenge our brain to keep it healthy, what kind of things allow us to be wise about life, and what kinds of things we need to do about it all.
The book emphasizes cognitive reserve - what it is and what kind of activity builds and preserves it. Cognitive reserve is basically extra capacity that is critical to maintaining brain function as we age. We all suffer from damage, deterioration, and shrinking gray matter and so it is critical to build and maintain this reserve. It may prevent or significantly delay even the most serious cases of dementia or Alzheimer's.
This is a fascinating read and keep me interested all the way through. Highly recommended.
A note on the one star review. People should not review and rate books they don't read.
Most fascinating for me were the discussions about how not only can your brain can be helped by doing physical exercise but that your mind can be worked out (through challenging your brain in various ways discussed in the book) in such a way that the mind makes it easier to exercise. For instance, elderly people who have trouble with balance can build up their brains in such a way that the mind can compensate for activities that were once automatic (such as maintaining balance).
It's a great book and a quick read. Highly recommended.
Holy smokes! I couldn't put it down. Anyone who wonders what they can do to give their brain the best chance of aging well will want to read this book.
The book is written by:
Cognitive psychologist, Shlomo Breznitz, a visiting professor at several leading institutions including the London School of Economics and Stanford University. He's authored seven books and numerous scientific articles.
Colins Hemingway, a writer and technologist who has written books on business, emerging technologies and ethical principles, including Bill Gate's #1 bestselling Business @ the Speed of Thought.
Let me say up front, this book is not about mastering brain puzzles, improving memory, or raising scores on cognitive tests. This is a book about improving our ability to live in and enjoy the real world for as long as possible. The reason this brain book is different from others is that it reduces complicated information into simple ideas, and it gives people tangible help for greatly reducing brain breakdown (i.e. from Alzheimer's or strokes).
Some of the topics featured in the book deal with:
Why you should not rely on experts to set up expert systems. Experts cannot explain what they do because they do not make their decisions based on rule-based knowledge. (Did you know that a poor golfer who takes more time to think about a shot generally does better, but an expert golfer who takes time will generally do worse. Thinking too much interferes with "muscle memory.")
False alarms reduce our reaction to subsequent alarms by as much as 50 percent. The more severe the warning, the greater the negative impact of the false alarm. Our tendency to be lulled to sleep by false alarms is proof that the experience teaches us the wrong lessons. It is very difficult to unlearn these wrong lessons.
Learning that comes quickly and early in life sets our attitudes for life. It is our ability to unlearn--not learn--that will determine our success.
Our consciousness seeks to control "forbidden ideas." This process also squelches anything out of the routine, thereby limiting creativity. For creativity to happen, mistakes must be made. That's because associations of unlikely items often leads to positive results.
Our basic tendency to stop searching for answers comes from an idea psychologists call "satisfycing." We stop seeking once we find a good enough answer. Over time, this causes people to become rigid in their thinking.
The discovery that people who have gone to college have one-third the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's. People who have a higher education decrease their risk of dementia by two-thirds! Four years of college and two years of graduate school reduce the risk by 66 percent. It is not college itself that creates the difference but the fact that college opens up a world of interesting and challenging work. The brain thrives on whatever is interesting and challenging.
The research that shows people who exercise over three times a week have a 38 percent lower risk of serious mental decline. A variety of exercise is a stronger predictor of cognitive health than the total amount. Depressed people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as other people, though it is not clear whether depression is a precipitating factor or sign of early onset.
Cognitive reserve is what is created when we develop the brain through engaging work, taxing work, etc. This cognitive reserve is what offsets the effects of brain disease. It doesn't prevent brain disease, but it can delay dementia and reduce the burden on families.
Continual learning creates strong brain connections, thus preventing the death of "lonely" or unwired neurons. Learning increases brain weight, blood supply, and the number of neural branches.
Things like forced learning and SSRI's (antidepressants) have both been shown to grow new brain cells.
Stress can have a good or bad impact on the human brain. Humans are wired to deal with stress immediately. The impact of stress depends more on the change in stress from a person's typical level rather than on the absolute stress level. The most common way to deal with stress is to deny it. This creates the phenomenon of the brain knowing and not knowing something. This not knowing helps us survive catastrophes but can make lower stress situations worse. Coping usually works better than denial.
Hope helps people heal and survive stressful situations.
Exposing people to a broad range of interests creates cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility prepares people to survive the chaos of modern life. So does a teaching person to have deep connections with family and community.
This book is filled with real life stories and fascinating psychological experiments. Bet you won't want to put it down once you start.