Think Smart by Richard Restak


My last two posts, Video Games Make You Smarter… Really! and Nap for Success, featured just a couple of the surprising but well-documented conclusions in Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance. Restak, a neurologist and prolific author of books on neuroscience and the human brain, turns his attention to a practical question: what can we humans do to improve the performance of our brains and prevent or reduce deterioration of our cognitive skills as we age?

After a brief primer on how human brains develop, Restak launches into a chapter on “Care and Feeding of the Brain.” He suggests, for example, eating two servings of fish per week. Farmed fish, salmon in particular, pack a potent omega-3 punch. In addition to improving mood, omega-3s have been shown to improve memory and the clarity of one’s thinking in testss of early-stage Alzheimer’s patients. Other conclusions in this chapter are that red wine is good (in moderation), red meat is bad (in excess), fruits and vegetables are good, and saturated fats are bad. As we have covered before here at Neuromarketing (e.g., Can’t Remember Names? Exercise!, exercise has been shown to be beneficial for brain performance and neurogenesis.

The chapter “Enhancing Your Brain’s Performance” covers a lot of territory, and Restak includes many practices, exercises, that we can do to improve our memory, cognitive processing, and more. A brief chapter covers technology and the brain, and then Restak delves into the issue of creativity and how we can all become more creative. As in the rest of Think Smart, there is plenty of specific, research-based advice.

Those impatient readers who want maximum benefit with minimum page-turning should skip directly to Restak’s epilogue: The Twenty-First-Century Brain. In it, he distills much of the advice from the rest of the book into 20 pages of action-oriented bullets.

What I like best about Think Smart is that Restak knows the science and cites the relevant research, but isn’t afraid to turn this dry data into specific and concise recommendations that even the casual reader can understand and implement. Whether you are a college student looking for that extra edge or a baby boomer hoping to stay sharp for decades more, Think Smart provides sound advice.

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