A Fun Guidebook, “Welcome to Your Brain” Has Something For Everyone

Is there anything more applicable to each and every one of us than the study of neuroscience? If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on in that head of yours – or, perhaps, what’s going on in the heads of your family, friends, and coworkers – this is the book for you.

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Written by two neuroscientists, Welcome to Your Brain provides an accessible and even fun entry point into what can seem like an intimidating topic. This isn’t some dry, college-level science textbook, however. Think of it more as a map or guidebook to what’s happening in that organ taking up space between your ears. And luckily for us, the authors are gifted writers, turning the complicated into the understandable, while making you laugh along the way.

Structured in six parts, Welcome to Your Brain takes us from the basics of your brain’s composition, to how the brain handles the five senses, to its development in childhood and its changes throughout life and old age. The authors also explore your “emotional” brain, your “rational” brain, and your brain in altered states. Each chapter within the sections contains interesting sidebars, either dispelling myths (no, we don’t only use 10% of our brain) or providing practical tips (such as how, scientifically speaking, to combat jet lag).

Many readers of this book would likely be especially interested in the section and chapters about brain development and the brain’s changes throughout our lives. We probably all want to know how we can best support brain development in young children, while also figuring out how to guard against brain function decay late in life. There’s a lot of societal anxiety, understandably, about both.

You’ll have to read that whole section for all the pertinent information on this, but I’ll say here, for the parents of young children, there’s no actual scientific evidence that playing Mozart for your babies makes them smarter. However, signing them up for piano lessons, for instance, does have a positive effect on brain development. Passive consumption of music does nothing. Instead, have them actually learn to play.

If you’re thinking about the opposite end of things and looking for a magic elixir to stave off mental decline late in life, look no further than physical exercise. That’s the single best way you can support brain health and fight dementia in age. Even older people who take up exercise late in life show mental benefits from it.

This book is filled with information that can help you better understand yourself and those around you. Use your brain and read it.

(Originally published here: http://msbusiness.com/blog/2015/02/12/louann-lofton-check-engaging-guidebook-brain/)

This Inside Account of a Devastating Brain Injury Fascinates

Imagine you’re a Harvard-trained neuroscientist, having spent years researching how our brains work and studying what can go awry with them. You’ve built a very fulfilling and fruitful career — and life — along the way. Now, you wake up one morning at the age of 37, and over the course of four critical hours, realize that you are suffering from a stroke. Your repository of insights into the brain allows you to analyze what’s going on, even as your left brain loses cognitive function.

Author and scientist Jill Bolte Taylor takes us on a first-hand account of just this very scenario in her striking memoir, My Stroke of Insight. In December 1996, she suffered an anteriovenous malformation (AVM), a rare form of stroke that, in her case, caused a massive hemorrhage on the left side of her brain.

In fascinating detail, Taylor recounts what it felt like to gradually lose the analytical powers of her left brain, while simultaneously recognizing that the right side of her brain was becoming dominant. In the book, she offers a quick and painless (really!) look at the two hemispheres of our brains and how they differ. The left is more logical, more concerned with order and time, while the right is more creative, more “in the moment,” and makes us feel connected to the world around us. As she felt her left brain go, Taylor was amazed at how it felt to live primarily in her right brain. She describes it as “nirvana,” and writes that she felt completely at peace with what was happening to her.

Taylor spent eight grueling years recovering from her stroke, having to relearn everything from knowing that you need to put on your socks before your shoes (a left brain injury means you don’t realize the order for things like that) to learning how to read all over again. She was relentless in her pursuit, determined to regain all of the cognitive function she’d lost, and was surrounded with loving friends and family who helped her.

In addition to being an inspirational read, My Stroke of Insight would also help anyone with a family member or friend recovering from a stroke. Taylor lays out how she herself recovered, what helped her, and, perhaps more importantly, what didn’t. She provides concrete suggestions for effective rehabilitation, including specifics about how stroke victims are treated.

Educational, entertaining, and engaging, anyone interested in the brain (or just an amazing story) would enjoy this book.

(Originally published here: http://msbusiness.com/blog/2013/09/27/book-biz-stroke-victim-lives-analyze-tell-inspiring-story/)