Maximum Brainpower

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cognitive psychologist Shlomo Breznitz explains why he thinks mental exercise is just as essential to our health and well-being as physical exercise. Maximum Brainpower: Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom, written with Collins Hemingway, looks at how the brain works and shares methods to increase its capabilities, defend against forgetfulness, memory loss, and maybe even dementia.


Shlomo Breznitz

Comments [12]

hlaor from NJ

I was stopped by a cop for speeding while listening to this show (I was so engaged in listening). It was just before Mr. Breznitz's brain exercises recommendations. The stress of dealing with the cop affected my ability to remember what was said and I was frustrated that I missed the brain exercise suggestions. (I always knew that stress is a "brain cells killer"). Luckily, my husband found it and emailed me the link. I wonder if my teaching job is stimulating enough (undoubtedly the stress involved does not promote brain health)I am contemplating learning a fourth language (different than Germanic/Latin origin),perhaps Mandarin, relearning playing the piano, and joining a Yiddish class (if I can find one in NJ...). PS: speeding ticket was reduced to "talking on the phone" (which I wasn't)...

Jul. 18 2012 02:04 PM
Sandra from The Bronx

Learn Higher Math!

FINALLY, I have a great answer for my students to the question, "Why do I need to learn Algebra?"
Many of my adult students who never learned it correctly in HS struggle to learn it in their "advanced" years
and get very frustrated when they don't understand instantly. Now they have a solid reason to master the topics as their neural bridges get stronger and more powerful! Incidentally, almost all of my Math Profs in graduate school in their 70's 80's and beyond were sharp as a tack!!!
(Now *I* better go and start proving something new...)

Jul. 10 2012 10:07 PM
Robin Datta from Fresno CA

I guess it was a good thing that I quit watching television after I got back from Bushdaddy's war. With regard to a foreign language, I got only as far as the Alif-Beth of Hebrew in the course of reading Aryeh Kaplan's translation and commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah. The nikhudim are still a puzzle to me: they are quite different from the marks in Urdu. Very few Hebrew words are recognisable in Urdu (which is Hindi larded with Arabic and Persian).

Jul. 10 2012 08:49 PM
Domul from The Catskill Park, N Y

A lot of enmity here! The writer never suggested cures, that his suggestions to forgo the condition were based in part on statistics and the possible amelioration was in the low percentiles. An individual instance does not prove his work useless.

And we all know a positive outlook can lead to active mental stimulation that will at least make life more enjoyable even if it cannot ultimately forestall mental (and physical) deterioration.

Jul. 10 2012 01:48 PM
Anne Mendelson from North Bergen

Was all set to find the "Maximum Brain Power" guy a snake oil salesman (a la the "moral molecule" purveyor), but was happily surprised by the caliber of your questions and his responses. (Re exposure to computers in later years: our family should have seen danger signals in my very intelligent sister-in-law's terror of the thing, years before an Alzheimer's diagnosis.)

Cut to the chase: About 30 years ago I started trying to teach myself to read Chinese in order to decipher restaurant menus. Can't say I ever got beyond the monkeys-at-a-typewriter stage, but now I realize that it's utterly, UTTERLY unlike any other mental effort I've ever made (including learning other languages). Which is exactly why it has been so inexhaustible -- why every tiny advance in understanding, year by year, is unbelievably illuminating and rewarding. The point should be not mental exercise in the sense of bench pressing, but something that opens up one's mind to a new world fascinating for its own sake.

Jul. 10 2012 01:19 PM
Leonard from Brooklyn

Silly comment about television. Television is a medium, a vehicle for delivering content the same as a books or radio or computers. Are we to believe that watching a Frontline documentary lowers cognitive ability? Many studies demonstrate that educational television improves cognitive ability. Mr. Breznitz's bias against a particular medium decreases his credibility.

Jul. 10 2012 01:05 PM
Joel from Westchester

What Mr. Breznitz just said about words having to be translated by the brain into images, answers my question of two or so years ago: On the Leonard Lopate show the guests were a couple who commented on traffic signs. I wondered whether signs using words or signs using symbols were quicker/easier to comprehend. Aha! As I thought -- the symbols win! (I am a graphic designer.)

Jul. 10 2012 01:04 PM
Nancy from Manhattan

In defense of television, watching TV in a foreign language can challenge your aging brain and help you learn the new language. Better thinking through telenovelas!

Jul. 10 2012 12:57 PM

Wasn't it recently discovered that there is no link between higher education level and Alzheimers?

My grandfather dropped out of grade school to open a grocery story and in his 70s developed Alzheimers. My father, a multi-lingual doctor, developed Alzheimers around the same time. Given his higher level of mental activity throughout his life, how would you explain that?

Jul. 10 2012 12:56 PM
Ana from Summit

Can he comment on brain games such as lumosity?

Jul. 10 2012 12:55 PM

My late paternal aunts and grandmother had dementia. Now, my 89-year-old father has it. I don't think any of them have/had Alzheimers.

Onset was around the same age: 83.

One of my aunts practiced law up until she could no longer function intellectually--about age 86.

Now, my 89-year-old my father has advanced dementia. He worked at a demanding intellectual profession until about age 83, at which point his dementia-caused "cognitive deficits" became too great for him to continue working.

I have noticed over the course of my father's cognitive deterioration over the past 6 years that stimulation by interacting with others, listening to music, and light exercise have been effective in slowing the dementia's progress. But based on my family history, it is hard for me to buy that keeping mentally "fit" is going to arrest dementia, if it is an inherited condition.

Jul. 10 2012 12:55 PM

I lived on a kibbutz too for a year. Israel has plenty of academics. An excess of pseudointellectuals, more than it could employ. It needed more chicken farmers at that time. But I learned more working with chickens than in much of my years in academia. Learned more about people from chickens, than chickens learn from people :)

Jul. 10 2012 12:55 PM

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