Monday, February 24, 2014

Make Your Brain Smarter: Book Review

What does it take to keep our brains functioning optimally into old age? Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., addresses this issue in Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain's Creativity, Energy, and Focus.

Past belief was that brain capacity was a constant until it declined, and little could be done to improve performance.

Dr. Chapman presents new science that refutes this, and indicates that the brain can repair itself and improve performance. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to reorganize and rewire by creating new neurons and neural pathways.

She discusses the barriers to concentration and deep thinking. Numerous interruptions like texts and emails as well as excessive data and multiple trivial tasks sidetrack the deep thought state.

The danger of that is deep thought improves brain performance. 

Another falacy Dr. Chapman writes about is brain function testing. Speed of the thought process and memory have often been used as determiners of brain health and intelligence, but cognitive functioning necessary for strategic planning, learning a new subject, or problem solving is a better measurement of brain function.

She sorts age ranges into groups called the Intermediates, Finders, Seekers, Thinkers, and Knowers, and gets very specific about brain issues in each of those groups.

Dr. Chapman describes aids to cognitive thinking as "powers." 

  • The Power of 1 is focusing on one thing without distractions.
  • The Power of 2 is selecting 2 important items on your to-do list, and truly concentrate on those. She calls the 2 "elephants" and the others, " rabbits".
  • The Power of Deep is pulling together data, knowledge, experience, etc. to create a new idea. She exclaims "Get off of automatic pilot!" [It's not good for your brain.]
  • The Power of Less is reducing the amount of information you're bombarded with. She  claims, "Big data freezes the brain."
  • The Power of Innovative Thinking is to avoid the status quo by getting inspired.
Of course, eating healthy, sleeping adequately, and exercise are important as well.

Make your Brain Smarter is a very enlightening book about improving brain health. 

The 10 minute video above is the author giving a TED talk on brain health.
Viewing on an iPad or iPhone? Link to the You-Tube video here.