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.
Your mind is getting older, but it's also getting (mostly) better, argues this very comforting treatise on the aging brain. The bad news, according to New York Times health editor Strauch (The Primal Teen), is that, as we sail past our 40s, the brain slows down a mite and occasionally forgets names and loses its train of thought. The good news is that it more than compensates with experience and know-how, improved verbal and spatial skills, brilliant intuitions, and "sustained wisdom-ness." The even better news, Strauch notes, is the improvements in brain function that flow from health regimens ranging from exercise (huge benefits) to drinking red wine (uncertain benefits) to chronic semistarvation (what was that about wine?) right into old age. And forget those myths about midlife crises and empty-nest syndromes: the middle-aged mind, the author insists, is at its peak of both competence and contentment. Sprinkling in conversations with graying but vigorous brain researchers who double as role models, Strauch gives a breezy rundown of developments in neuroscience that shatter the received picture of inevitable mental stagnation and decline. Her mix of intriguing pop-science and reassuring pep talk should win her hopeful message an avid readership.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A little slow to start but then kicked in and presented a wealth of material. Good condensation of the latest knowledge.