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Publisher's Summary

Acclaimed journalist Cathryn Jakobson Ramin takes readers on a lively journey to explain what happens to memory and attention in middle age.

Anyone older than 40 knows that forgetfulness can be unnerving, frustrating, and sometimes terrifying. With compassion and humor, Jakobson Ramin sets out to discover what midlife forgetfulness is all about, from the perspectives of physiology, psychology, and sociology. Relentless in her search for answers to questions about her own unreliable memory, she explores the factors that determine how well or poorly one's brain will age. She consults experts in the fields of sleep, stress, traumatic brain injury, hormones, genetics, and dementia, as well as specialists in nutrition, cognitive psychology, and the burgeoning field of drug-based cognitive enhancement. The landscape of the midlife brain is not what you might think, and to understand its strengths and weaknesses turns out to be the best way to cope.

A groundbreaking work that represents the best of narrative nonfiction, this is a timely, highly readable, and much-needed book for anyone whose memory is not what it used to be.

©2007 Cathryn Jakobson Ramin (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"The variety of perspectives and the wealth of scientific information Ramin provides, as well as her warm personal style, will reward readers and may well help them stay mentally sharp. ( Publishers Weekly)

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Greg
  • Lansing, MI, USA
  • 11-16-07

Bland but not boring

For me this read like a book report. She had a good outline, used some examples, a few analogies, and did great research. Grade = A+. However, I think I would have better identified with her humor, and the prominently featured ballroom dancing, menopause, and the touching story of an Alzheimer's patient - if I were a 50 year old women. Either way it's a good book worth buying.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lee
  • Sturtevant, WI, USA
  • 12-19-09

Clming of some of my fears

I am in my mid seventys and I have a problem. My wife and I seam to have the worst case of forgetting things. I have been in fear that we both were on the path to that terrable disease and this book layed to rest these fears. I have had to hear the book twice to understand most of the materal.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • cynthia
  • Mississauga, ON, Canada
  • 10-20-09

Exhilerating and Practical, too!

This author is kindof crazy... subjecting herself to all sorts of treatments, diets, programs, and medical exams in order to answer the question, "what causes middle-aged memory loss, and what can we do about it?"

At 28, I'm not exactly middle aged, but I came out of the book with helpful tips to begin following right now for optimum brain health down the road. It's hardly a boring how-to book, though. Full of dialogue, anecdotes, research data and more, it's a fun read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting and Improving Progression

This was a story that was slow starting, and I almost abandoned it, considering the author was just another privileged American living life at hyper-speed and then complaining that it wasn't sustainable because her mind couldn't keep up.

It got more interesting as she progressed through several stages of intervention, some focusing on brain-damage (minor concussions), lack of sleep, first stages in Alzheimers perhaps, nutrition, meditation and various mind-affecting drugs, to name a few, and not in order of the narrative. What became more apparent was the medical and non-medical approaches to this problem always seems to presuppose that there is a solution, if you could just find the right one. I liked how she avoided castigating the various suppliers of remedies, as the respective remedies' shortcomings became more apparent. It's a deficiency in the issue, not in the people trying to address it, is how I interpret it.

And she did eventually recognize the problem with the way we live being part of the problem (and that we live longer), and the ethical problems associated with performance enhancement.

As some of the reviewers here mentioned, the seemingly endless anecdotes on memory and brain function loss are tiring, and seem to predominate the beginning of the book. I finally resolved to endure that, because the author does have something worthwhile to say.

Interestingly, in one specific case, a diagnosis based on her test evaluation was compared to an average. Since her average more or less matched the benchmark average, the diagnostician said she was average and had nothing to worry about. I found it interesting that a later diagnostician with a different remedy looked at those same results and pointed out that the results needed to be compared against here own previous "normal" state, for which there was no data. But it is a valid point, and she recognized it true on a subjective basis (her own experience time-trend), that is, the loss of function that was clearly apparent to her. The loss in specific areas were very far from her overall mean in the original evaluation, also, which implies the variability associated with the average must have changed quite a bit over time.

As I understand it, this is an example of identifying ergodicity, where the total average is equal to the average at any point in time. In her case, there were multiple areas of evaluation for which one could calculate an overall average. It would be ergodic if at any instant of time the average of those elements is the same as the overall average. The fact no data was collected for her over previous time doesn't affect the nature of this data, which is non-ergodic. A pretty common error in the medical field and elsewhere, I suspect, but often unavoidable due to lack of complete data and full appreciation of the nature of the phenomena associated with the data.

I recommend this book, just be patient with the beginning--it does get better.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Carolyn
  • jackson, WY, United States
  • 02-23-11

Whiney

I thought I would really like this book, but the narrator just seemed whiney. See seeks numerous opinions as to her memory loss and after a while, well, I just got tired of hearing it. This is the first time I have ever gotten into my car and said to myself "I can't wait to see what this lady will whine about this time." You might ask why have I stuck it out this far? (I have two hours left). It's because I hate to give up on anything.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Wading through the anecdotes

I got bogged down in the many, MANY anecdotes of peoples' memory lapses, and ended up not finishing the book. I was looking for a cut-to-the-chase scientific review of current treatments and research, and couldn't wade through all of those little vignettes.