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Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment Paperback – March 1, 2011
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offers cutting-edge neuroscience, and is written by two experts with decades of hands-on clinical practice. See for yourself why Dr. Perlmutter is my personal neurologist and mentor.”
About the Author
David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, is a board-certified neurologist and fellow of the American College of Nutrition. He serves as medical director of the Perlmutter Health Center and the Perlmutter Hyperbaric Center in Naples, Florida and is also an adjunct instructor at the Institute for Functional Medicine. He is the author of three books and numerous journal articles. Dr. Perlmutter has appeared on 20/20, Larry King Live, CNN, Fox News, Fox and Friends, the Today show, The Oprah Show, and The Early Show on CBS. Alberto Villoldo, PhD, has trained as a psychologist and medical anthropologist, and has studied the healing practices of the Amazon and the Andean shamans for more than 25 years. While at San Francisco State University, he founded the Biological Self-Regulation Laboratory to study how the mind creates psychosomatic health and disease. Dr. Villoldo directs The Four Winds Society, where he trains individuals in the USA and Europe in the practice of shamanic healing. He directs the Center for Energy Medicine at Los Lobos, Chile, where he investigates and practices the neuroscience of enlightenment.
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Overall, "Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment", by David Perlmutter and Alberto Villoldo was a good book to read. I liked how authors made interconnections with science, religion, evolution, history, and enlightenment throughout the book. It gave me a new perspective on the science, particularly neuroscience and cell biology that I have learned in a school.
Readers do not have to have any technical knowledge of the neuroscience to understand and enjoy this book. It is written in an ordinary language with many examples demonstrating the themes of each chapter. Here is one of my favorite stories from the book:
when a young man asks to his grandfather, "There are two wolves inside of me. One wants to kill and destroy, and other one wants to make peace and bring beauty. Which one will win, Grandfather?" The Old man answers "Whichever one you feed."
This is a nice example to show how a simple choice between negative thinking and positive thinking can gradually lead you to two completely opposite paths.
This book starts of as a supernatural religious experiences authors encounter with shamans. At first, for many young readers, it may seem as if the book is going to be about "enlightenment experiences". I felt like giving up on the book after reading the introduction as I was looking for a neuroscience related content. However when the authors made their first link of feminine life energy that is described in many different cultures to mitochondria, physical energy power houses of the cells, I begin to be drawn into the reading. Mitochondria are inherited strictly from mother to all of her children. In this sense, mitochondria can be seen has feminine life force of humans. Until now, I have always viewed science and spirituality to be separate entities. But after reading the introduction and first chapter, for the first time in my life, I was able to see a connection between the science and the spiritual world.
Another link they made was with the religious belief that the "soul is eternal and undying" to the "science of energy and matter". Remembering from science course how energy is never created or destroyed but transformed from one form to another. In a similar fashion, after our death, from a science perspective, body decomposes and every particle and energy from our body assimilates into the nature.
I also liked how informative stress discussion was. Authors described two types of stresses; acute and chronic by providing examples of each. For example, during Colonial times, legendary pirates of the Caribbean learned that the better way to worn out citizens was by chronic stress produced by the sound of cannons firing than the actual damage caused by cannon balls.
HPA (hypothalamus pituitary axis) and stress hormones are described in detail as well. Stress increases the level of cortisol. Studies on rats have shown that elevated level of cortisol increases the effect of free radicals in hippocampus and damages mitochondria. This affects the learning and creativity. Also environmental stressors to the body, which may not be apparent, such as insecticides and pesticides, destroy mitochondrial function and affect some neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, autism and some others.
Stress does not only affects us negatively but it also has positive impacts on us when it is acute. For example exercise puts acute stress on muscles and ultimately body's response to this stress results in muscle growth. Also it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Positive emotional experiences protect hippocampus by decreasing the cortisol production. Acute stress may allows us to remember some events as seen in the example of Alberto experience of earthquake.
Chapters on neuroplasticity explained the brain's ability to create new neural networks to learn, adapt and change. For example, a 58 year old person with severe loss of tissue and damage to the brain seen on MRI, but no deficits whatsoever can be explained by activation of alternative pathways of the brain to regain functionality of the related affected parts of the body. Authors also talked about how attention matters by explaining how positive reinforcement would result in focused attention and it would show profound changes in the brain than people without it; "without focused concentration, brain connections are not made, and memory is not stored." Focused attention can help you change your thoughts, activities, and behaviors to make positive improvements in your life. We also have capacity to direct our attention toward new positive neural connections by "repeating and reinforcing to build new neural pathway".
Another exciting story that showed that if you merely image yourself engaging in an activity, you can create the neural connections associated with learning it without actually performing it. For example, Dr. Pascual - Leone's experiment compared changes in brains of individuals who had practiced playing piano physically and individual who had envisioned their fingers moving across the keyboard, both group showed similar changes in brain area activation.
Authors discussion on recent discovery of neurogenesis, the ability of the brain to actually grow new neurons was very fascinating. In a sense, neurogenesis is brain's own stem cell therapy. BDNF- brain derived neurotrophic factor - plays an important role in creating new neurons and also in neuroplasticity. It provides protection against mitochondrial toxins such as pesticides. BDNF activation can be achieved by physical exercise, calorie reduction, and intellectual stimulation in terms of problem solving, meditating, and exploring novel environments. Also, other important factors are curcumin, chemical in turmeric, and DHA (docosahexaemoic acid important building block for the membrane that surround the brain cells, which is synthesized from omega-3 fat and alpha linoleic acid) and eating organic food.
Authors even include an action plan to improve reader's health through diet, exercise, fasting, and meditation. However, there was one thing I did not like about this book: the way supplements were prescribed to treat many of the conditions presented in various examples and how miraculously they worked. I believe in healthy diet, exercise, meditation, and even fasting but I am little skeptic on taking nutrients for the brain in form of the supplements. I would rather have those nutrients coming from the diet as an alternative mentioned by authors in form of olive oil, coconut oil, turmeric, green tea, fruits and vegetables. Sometimes it felt as if authors were trying to "advertise" these supplements. Also few chapters were little more detailed on supernatural experiences rather than actual neuroscience or making the connections between the two.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has given me a new perspective on how neuroscience and spirituality are interconnected to one another. This book has been truly an enlightening experience. I definitely recommend this book to anyone; even if you are on either side of the spectrum: a strong believer of science or spirituality, you will enjoy this book to the fullest as long as you keep an open mind.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
" Anger interrupts the functioning of your frontal lobes. When frontal lobe shuts down, it is impossible to listen to others."
"Stress of changing ecosystem has made ways of inviting wisest and adaptable to survive."
"Happiness is a treasure of clear perception that will be eternally yours."
"With focused attention you can change your thoughts, change your activities, and change your behaviors to make a positive improvements in your life."
"neurons that fire together, wire together."
accepted by society as a whole at the same time that the mechanics of brain function and brain health are also understood. Given the amount of neurodegenerative disease surrounding us this book is also a critical one as we all age, hopefully with our cognitive function and brain health intact. This should be required reading for every college student as the practices it recommends provide a foundation upon which many adult health and lifestyle decisions should be based. Read this book and give it to people that you care about.....