A leading science writer examines how the brain's capacity reaches its peak in middle age. For many years, scientists thought that the human brain simply decayed over time and its dying cells led to memory slips, fuzzy logic, negative thinking, and even depression. But new research from neuroscientists and psychologists suggests that, in fact, the brain reorganizes, improves in important functions, and even helps us adopt a more optimistic outlook in middle age. Growth of white matter and brain connectors allow us to recognize patterns faster, make better judgments, and find unique solutions to problems. Scientists call these traits cognitive expertise and they reach their highest levels in middle age.
In her impeccably researched book, science writer Barbara Strauch explores the latest findings that demonstrate, through the use of technology such as brain scans, that the middle-aged brain is more flexible and more capable than previously thought. For the first time, long-term studies show that our view of middle age has been misleading and incomplete. By detailing exactly the normal, healthy brain functions over time, Strauch also explains how its optimal processes can be maintained.
Part scientific survey, part how-to guide, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain is a fascinating glimpse at our surprisingly talented middle-aged minds.
©2010 Barbara Strauch (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Strauch tackles [loaded questions] with all the scientific instruments at her disposal...the latest findings neurological, biochemical, and psychological, with an illuminating dose of anecdote thrown in." (New Scientist)
"Provocative....A contender for every parent's reading list." (Newsday)
This book is like many other books when talking about how the brain works and how its functioning could be enhanced (e.g., exercise, do new things, and solve problems). It is different in that looks at the advantages and disadvantages of the middle-aged brain. As we age, we may not be able to remember things or solve math problems as quickly as we used. Because of this, people think the middle-aged brain is declining. Surprisingly, the book reveals that the middle-aged brain can be at its peak. The brain has reorganized since its youth. It has built up patterns of connections and it acts and thinks differently. It is smarter, calmer, and happier. When a young worker is freaking out over a problem, an older worker is thinking, "Calm down. We've gotten through worse problems than this. First, let's figure out how bad the situation is." The middle-aged brain is using both sides, whereas the younger brain is using the untamed emotional side.
This book reassures us that as we age, our brain does not necessarily become progressively worse. We have more experience and knowledge, which have been applied repeatedly over time, strengthening connections in our brain. We make better judgments and decisions. It could be called wisdom, intuition, or gut feeling; these snap judgments come from our years of experience. We need to appreciate the advantages of a more mature brain rather than focus on the one negative aspect (forgetting things). It is also important that we exercise and keep our brain in top shape.
Yes, whenever I think my brain is decreasing its performance and making me feel old.
The original ideas transmited by the author in a very friendly way of writing.
This book contains some interesting ideas, but they are repeated ad nauseam. Okay, okay! Even my middle-aged brain has got the point. Please move on. This would have been better as a magazine piece.
An easy listen due to quality reading and interesting research. Concepts are somewhat belaboured. I would have preferred a faster pace. That said, the content is more than worthwhile. I have recommended the book to several friends.
I will read this book many times over - and not just because I'm middle-aged. This book is really fascinating, inspiring, and gives me hope that it's not all down hill from here. I intend on buying a copy to send to all of my friends and family.
Yes - There were parts I'd like to review one more time.
The age bracket for the "new" midlife age span.
The going into the basement story - How we all can relate!
too scientifc for a film
This book was great for reassuring a large amount of us out there that are caregivers for parents with Alzheimers that there is hope. Those names that just won't come - well that's because the brain is working better in other areas. It was great to listen to some scientific data that backs this all up.
This book is pretty short, but the first couple hours were repetitive and seemed to go on forever. That part can be can be summarized as: 1.) Middle aged people misplace their keys and forget why they went to the basement; 2.) Middle age people have experience and patience, so they are really valuable; and 3.) All the author's friends and associates are professionals and have graduate degrees. I guess that makes them even more valuable in spite of losing their keys and forgetting why they went to the basement.
A couple hours in, she gets into a substantive review of some pretty interesting science around brains, dementia, and the care and feeding of our brains. The last three or four hours make up for the first couple.
This was a great listen! The writer describes why aging brain is not that bad. Although memory declines, older brains are more positive and are better in dealing with a variety of situations. At times, I find the book repetitive, but I think this is done so that the points can really hit home. I really like the ending where she talks about her friends and the roses. What a great way to end the book! The narrator did a great job and brought the book to life!
Interesting science, but too many personal references to anxiety about aging.
A little less emphasis on assuming the reading is in middle age and panicking about getting old.
I'm not sure
How exercise helps create new neurons. The brain is plastic and can grow new cells, and science is finally overcoming the dogma decreed in 1913 that the brain can't change.
The book often referenced getting old and then made a point about how the aging brain is actually not as badly in decline as we presumed. This had the ironic effect of creating anxiety by starting with the assumption that we all worry about aging. I'd rather she just explain the discoveries and tone down all the personal concerns. I'd mention it once on the back cover, to pique the interest of older folks who really have started to worry about dementia, but don't harp on it throughout the book and alienate younger people.
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