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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: David O. Staats, MD (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Description: This is a multiauthored book on how exercise affects cognitive functioning and brain plasticity flows from a conference held in 2004. It is the third volume in the series Aging, Exercise and Cognition.
Purpose: The purpose is to review the evidence for exercise affecting the functioning of the brain in cognition and plasticity. The authors summarize extant knowledge.
Audience: The primary audience consists of researchers in brain and exercise function. The authors are all experts in the field.
Features: A review of brain imaging probes begins the book. This is followed by chapters on occupational complexity, enhancing cognitive function in older adults, and an interesting chapter on aging and expertise. The book goes on to cover exercise effects on learning, physical activity, and cognitive function. Concluding chapters cover the effect of acute exercise on brain potentials, hormone replacement therapy and cognition, and prescribing physical activity to improve cognition.
Assessment: This is a useful volume that fits nicely into the series. What does exercise do to the brain? It alters neural networks and it makes us sleep better. I wonder if that doesn't make us wider awake and think more clearly. The difficulty lies in discerning the indirect as well as direct effects of exercise on the brain's functioning. The chapter on exercising rats wryly asks which group is the treatment group, arguing that the inactivity of the caged animals is more different a state than exercising rats when compared to their (quite active) feral cousins. This book is an attractive overview of a complex problem.