Synopses & Reviews
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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Praise for The Primal Teen by Barbara Strauch
"Provocative...A contender for every parent's reading list."
"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."
"Entertaining as well as informative."
"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."
"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."
"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)
For many years, scientists thought that the human brain simply decayed over time. But new research suggests that the brain can improve. Strauch explores the latest findings that demonstrate how the middle-aged brain is more flexible than previously thought.
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.
About 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.