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Making a Good Brain Great    by Daniel G. Amen order for
Making a Good Brain Great
by Daniel G. Amen
Order:  USA  Can
Harmony, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Dr. Daniel G. Amen offers Making a Good Brain Great as a 'guide to loving, caring, and nurturing your brain.' His book is divided into two main sections. The first gives a brain primer and introduces nine 'deceptively simple' principles about our body's (and life's) 'command and control center'. The second half of the book covers brain care and maintenance in The Amen Clinic Program for Making a Good Brain Great. At the back of the book is an Appendix on Brain SPECT imaging.

The first principle reminds us that the brain is involved in everything we do, the second that a healthy brain is key to a 'will-driven' life (with fascinating brain scans showing both healthy and troubled brains). The third (accompanied by a primer on brain basics) makes the case that 'The human brain is the most complicated organ in the universe.' The fourth goes into the brain's physical fragility, and the impact of even minor brain injuries, such as incurred in repetitive heading of soccer balls or in football games. The fourth goes into the relationship between various brain systems and specific behaviors, and includes a quiz to help focus in on problem areas.

The fifth principle makes the important point that, for conditions like ADD or depression, 'Doctors should be treating not symptoms, but rather the underlying brain problems that are causing the difficulties.' In the seventh, Dr. Amen repeatedly asks 'How do you know unless you look?', stressing the importance of brain imaging in diagnosis and treatment. Next, he tells us that the good news is that interventions are possible and the brain can change. Finally, the ninth principle is that most brains can use 'a little help', that few get through life without some damage.

The program in the second section (two thirds of the book) covers: how to protect the brain from physical and emotional trauma, and toxic exposure (including from medications); eating right; brain exercise through new learning; the benefits of physical exercise; coordination practice, such as juggling, to benefit the cerebellum; how regular sex is good for the brain; issues of perception; musical interventions; calming stress via practices such as meditation; aging problems; supplements that can help; and when and how to get professional help. Finally, Amen discusses putting together a personal program for improved brain health.

Dr. Daniel Amen makes excellent points in Making a Good Brain Great about the importance of brain imaging ('How do you know unless you look?') and about common practices (sports kids play and medications commonly prescribed in particular) that may be damaging. I recommend his book to anyone concerned about brain health through life's stages.

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