The Dana Guide to Brain Health book review

Dana Press kindly sent us a couple of books. One of them, The Dana Guide to Brain Health: A Practical Family Reference From Medical Experts, is our topic today.

We are impressed by what Dana is doing to insert neuroscience findings and implications into the public discourse.

No big surprise then, to find out so much quality content inside a 700-page one-of-a-kind “guide”, some of it, incidentally, provided by Dr. Goldberg, our Chief Scientific Advisor.

The guide is really 4 books inside a common binding. Priced at a reasonable level, and with superb in-depth text and images in all relevant areas, the book can be used as a 1) Brain 101 tutorial, 2) brief summary of the basics of Brain Care, 3) description of the stages of brain development, 4) reference guide for around 70 brain-related conditions. In my personal opinion, every neuroscience, medical and psychology student, clinician and researcher should have this book in their hands to keep abreast of many recent developments, and also be exposed to professional development courses based on it. Many families and individuals interested in the brain should consider buying it too.

Given the focus of our blog-brain fitness for healthy individuals-, we particularly enjoyed the sections

– on intelligence, with sentences such as “It is extremely unlikely that an “intelligence pill” will be discovered in the near future” (P. 215)

– on “The Brain-Body Loop” which explains, among other things, the effects of stress,

– “Taking Advantage of New Findings and New Finding About the Adult Brain“, with gems such as “Recent research on the brain has established two great principles. First, far from remaining static in adulthood, as we had long assumed, the human brain continues to grow and develop throughout our entire life span. This development takes place in two ways: by ongoing adjustments in signaling pathways and by the addition of new brain cells. Knowing this means that you should try, as you would with any fine, high-powered machine, to practice good maintenance to give it the best chance to provide peak performance…in many respects we can make a material difference in how it ages, and even induce it to perform better over time…Just as we may choose to strengthen our muscles with challenging workouts, we can encourage brain growth by keeping engaged in many different mental activities”.

– and, above all, the one on “Basic Brain Care: Protecting Your Mental Capital” (Pages 31-41), where we are all recommended to

—- Sleep: at least 6 hours a day, making sure we don’t make a habit of “cutting sleep short”

—- Eat well: the general rule here is that what is good for the body is also good for the brain, and to be wary of “diets advertised as “brain food”

—- “Protect the fortress” (our skull), by making sure we use security belts and helmets whenever there may be a risk

—- Exercise regularly

—- Keep Stress in Check (stress can inhibit or reduce the creation of new neurons, among other things)

—- Stimulate our minds through life, by ensuring a flow of novelty and variety that enhances the creation of a “cognitive reserve”. If is fascinating for us to see how Brain Fitness helps integrate “Brain Health” and “Lifelong Learning”, Health & Wellness and Education. Of course, these categories are human conventions that the brain itself probably doesn’t care too much about…

In short, a great reference book for professionals and for people interested in the brain. And a great starting point (the only one we are aware of) for a really useful and practical guide to Brain Health that every family should have. In a bit more creative terms: great quality marble looking for a consumer-oriented Michelangelo.

We won’t be posting more until 2007…so Happy New Year!


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