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The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind
     

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind

3.7 13
by Barbara Strauch
 

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A leading science writer examines how our brains improve in middle age.

Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Barbara Strauch explores the latest findings that demonstrate how the middle-aged brain is more flexible and capable than previously thought. In fact, new research from neuroscientists and psychologists suggests that the brain reorganizes,

Overview

A leading science writer examines how our brains improve in middle age.

Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Barbara Strauch explores the latest findings that demonstrate how the middle-aged brain is more flexible and capable than previously thought. In fact, new research from neuroscientists and psychologists suggests that the brain reorganizes, improves in important functions, and even helps us adopt a more optimistic outlook in middle age. We recognize patterns faster, make better judgments, and find unique solutions to problems. 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (Apr. 19)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Primal Teen by Barbara Strauch

"Provocative...A contender for every parent's reading list."
-Newsday

"Upends the longstanding belief that the teenage brain is largely complete, concluding instead that it is undergoing dramatic changes that can help explain what appears to be a gap between intelligence and judgement."
-The Hartford Courant

"This is such a smart book...Barbara Strauch acts as a world-class guide to a mysterious place, taking us on a journey through the teenage brain and making sense of the scenery. In turns funny, curious, explanatory, vivid, she does an absolutely compelling job of helping us to understand our children-and ourselves."
-Deborah Blum, author of Love at GoonPark: Hanny Harlow and the Science of Affection

"Through interviews with parents, physicians, neuroscientists, and teens, Strauch has compiled impressive insights about the nature of being a teen or the parent of one."
-Science News

"Entertaining as well as informative."
-Teacher magazine

"An intriguing look at cutting-edge studies that now tell us the brain is not finished growing in a child's early years but continues into the teens."
-The Plain Dealer

"Can knowing more about the teenager's brain help us to understand the teenager's behavior? Can an account of the neuroscience of adolescence be lively and readable? Barbara Strauch provides convincing evidence that the answer to both questions is yes."
-Judith Rich Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do

"Readers will be struck by the wonderfully candid comments by those interviewed as well as Strauch's insightful narrative."
-Publishers Weekly

"Strauch's well-researched book explains studies that were impossible, without such advanced technology as the MRI in clear, compassionate, layperson's language...A parents' must-read."
-Booklist

"Strauch [has]...a light, anecdotal style and a sense of humor. This is a very useful book...[These] are conclusions parents will want to consider carefull."
-The Washington Post Book World

"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."
-The New Scientist

"An important book...Strauch writes masterfully, making scientific research understandable to lay readers."
-Library Journal (starred)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670020713
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/15/2010
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.58(h) x 0.96(d)
Age Range:
17 Years

Meet the Author

Barbara Strauch is health and medical science editor and a deputy science editor at The New York Times and the author of The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids. She previously covered science and medical issues in Boston and Houston and directed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism at Newsday.

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Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Dorothy-from-Michigan More than 1 year ago
Reading about the body and the mind has always been a favorite topic of mine, although I am far from being any expert regarding biology, science or nutrition. I look for books that take complex information and make it understandable to the novice. This book does that and does so with humor written in. Some of the examples of memory loss are so true and yet hilariously funny. The author was able to take the intricate workings of the brain and clearly explain not only how our brain functions physically, but how factors like emotions, memory, IQ, diet, exercise etc. affect the interactions of brain activity. Subtitled, "The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind" lead me to believe that all is not lost and possibilities exist that I may not have considered. I think I may have found some answers in this book. I dog-eared many pages so will pick this book up and read it again. I have recommended it to many of my middle-aged, yet youthful, friends and coworkers.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
It is pleasing to be able to own that one’s brain is “grown-up.” It is challenging to understand what a “grown-up brain” means. When I discovered this book, the title caught my attention (as it hints at speaking to my favorite subject – brain plasticity); it was the subtitle that made the sale.  Having approached, my some definitions, my “middle years,” I was excited to explore what talents I possess now that I have crossed that threshold.  The author, a Science Editor at the New York Times, does an admirable job of researching this topic and translating that research into a clear, often enjoyable read. The book is divided into three sections.  The first, The Powers That Be, is an overview of the “software” that makes up the brain and how it is enhanced (by experience, education, health, etc.) to be far more powerful in Middle Age than was previously suggested. The author discusses research that indicates the Middle Aged brain is agile enough to handle situations, complexities and challenges incomprehensible in earlier life.  The second section, The Inner Workings, highlights how the “hardware” (how the MA brain has been shaped by experience, genes, education, etc.) and “software” (what the MA brain knows and is able to learn) are co-creating a mind that can, with attention and a bit of luck, continue to learn, grow and develop well into one’s 70’s.  This section also introduces how the brain can (and does) regenerate itself over one’s lifetime. This idea is exceptional news for those who have suffered brain damage and takes exception to the long-held idea that brain cells cannot be regenerated.  It is also welcomed by those who are advancing in age without the “curse” of having diminished capacities merely because they are aging. The final section, Healthier Brains, is just that, what can be done to have a healthier (and healthy) brain.  Primary to that end is aerobic exercise.  According to the author, any aerobic exercise produces new brain cells in the memory centers of lab animals (such tests on humans cannot be done due to the “untimely demise” required of the test subjects). Consistent such exercise has shown results in humans based upon cognitive testing. Added to exercise is diet. Eating foods higher in ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) and avoiding (of course) foods high in Trans fats have shown positive results. Some studies have shown low grade stress (like the stress produced by the hunger experienced while dieting, for instance) will improve the brain processes. Most of the studies mentioned by the author are in the early stages or are small sample studies. More than a few, however, are longitudinal (50+ years), broad sample studies, the gold standard of research. This book is a good source for information about what happens to our “minds” as we age. The sources appear to lengthy, broad and well documented. It is easily accessed for reference and in not overly technical, allowing for a wider readership.  It is of depth enough that it needs to be read carefully, it is NOT a weekend read.
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Identified what science was unknown but outlined results of other studies. Interesting. Made me spend time thinking about the content.
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rachel44 More than 1 year ago
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