Wow, how many ‘brain books’ are out there right now?! It’s a little endless, and I seem to have a constant stream (no, river!) of books that make me want to retreat to a cave, or a cupboard will do, with my blanky and a cuppa and immerse myself. Goodbye all. So, given how abundant we are with books to read and review that explore leading edge neuroscience and the brain, this is the first set of reviews on the topic and there will probably be another. Just don’t ask me when, for I will be in my cupboard.
This is a selection of some of the books I’ve encountered in the last ten years of researching around wellness, stress, resilience and performance. Enjoy, and feel free to post suggested books below! Please share …
Brain Rules by John Medina
Sharing insights about how the brain works in everyday ways is Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist with a lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. If you’d like some insights into how sleep, stress and trying to multi-task affect the brain, you’ll enjoy this book. Offering many practical explanations for how our brain works, learns best and can be enhanced, Brain Rules offers a good distillation of current brain science you can make use of.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey
If you’re anything like me, given the choice between an effortful, grunting heave up a mountain that most people call hiking, and enjoying my latest book with a nice brew (ref above), the chill out version wins every time. However. This book pretty much sky-rocketed my motivation to exercise. It turns out that not only does exercise do all the usual things we know about; releasing endorphins, burning fat, burning off stress chemicals like cortisol (yes, it really does do that. Fantastic), etc etc … it also MAKES YOU MORE INTELLIGENT.
Waaay cool, right?
A fantastic book for really understanding the benefits of exercise, Spark is a fascinating read that really might just help your motivation levels for getting out there and getting your heart rate up! Harvard researcher, professor and author, John Ratey, gives us stunning insights into the connection between exercise and brain performance. And yes, you’ll have to read it to find out how exercise will make you more intelligent – it has something to do with a very long-winded term brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor (conveniently referred to as BDNF). Phew. And those are the only long words in the book. Promise.
Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Dr Daniel Amen
Dr Daniel Amen is a highly respected clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist and medical director, widely known for his breakthrough findings and advice for achieving a healthy brain for the length of your life. He makes it clear that you can heal and rejuvenate your brain, even if you’ve had health issues, stress and poor diet or habits previously. The book is a mixture of interesting information about how the brain functions, pictures of brain scans, and a plethora of practical advice for the reader to choose from for herself. It covers a range of issues including anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, anger and head trauma, and shares various good ‘brain habits’.
Do you want to discover right now what makes your brain healthy? Dr Amen shares his fantastic knowledge in this amusing and entertaining clip – it’s about an hour long, so perhaps enjoy it with a (healthy!) TV dinner on your knee! Your high performance brain
Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD
If you’re rather attached to your buttery toast in the mornings, you probably don’t want to read this book. If you have a child with anything in the ballpark of ADHD (not that I love that term) or want to improve your own energy levels, working memory, anxiety and overall health, then maybe you will want to read it. World-renowned neurologist David Perlmutter, lifts the lid on the reality of carbs on our health and they essentially destroy the brain. Interestingly, in the last month I’ve heard two respected health experts mention that there is such a thing as being protein-deprived, or fat-deprived (your brain is 60% fat so we need a good dose of fat in our diet), but there is no such thing as being carbohydrate-deprived because our body doesn’t really need carbs to function well (unless it’s for fuel in the context of exercise). Perlmutter says that even “healthy” carbs like whole grains can increase risk for dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, depression, and more. He also explains why your brain thrives on fat and cholesterol, and how you can spur the growth of new brain cells at any age, take control of your “smart genes” and use food as medicine. The book includes a four-week plan to make helpful changes.
Want a (grain-free) entrée? Here’s a quick 10-minutes of Dr Perlmutter talking about his findings. Check it out here.
Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment by David Perlmutter and Alberto Villoldo
If you’re interested in understanding the neuroscience of stress, how to support your body if you’ve been in burnout, and how to bring your body back into equilibrium on all levels, this is a great read. It’s written by Perlmutter (neurologist) and shaman and medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo – bringing together their expertise and experience in a very useful way.
The book blends nutritional advice, dietary supplements, physical exercise, shamanic practices, meditation, and visualisations (also offered in a five-week format) designed to help the reader clear their minds, heal from stress and access more peace and insight. It’s very informative but also practical, and a great example of combining the power of science and the insights of shamanism and spirit to help us not only understand how to heal and deepen our spiritual growth, but to be able to go ahead and do it.