The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain
The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind
By Barbara Strauch
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670020713, 256pp.)
Publication Date: April 15, 2010
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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.
In The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind, New York Times health and medical science editor Barbara Strauch writes about ways the brain actually improves with age, and discusses what recent studies say about keeping the brain in tip-top shape. More at NPR.org
Science writer Barbara Strauch set out to explain why our brains falter in middle age, and wound up writing a book about how they can flourish. Scientists tell us that as we careen through middle age, our brains do slow down. We have trouble retrieving names, or we get easily distracted. But the news is nowhere as bad as we might think. More at NPR.org
In middle age, most of us get forgetful and easily distracted. But new research finds that our minds improve in some ways as we age: We're better at seeing the big picture and comprehending complexity. Writer Barbara Strauch details how the middle-aged brain grows and changes in The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain. More at NPR.org
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)