Top Brain Boosting Books
There’s no better way to educate yourself on anything and everything than by reading books, books, glorious books.
And when it comes to learning the ins and outs of the brain, books hold the ticket to all things neuro-related. So, we’ve hand-picked the top 3 books to get stuck into in order to help you to:
- Work on becoming a boffin on the brain.
- Realise your brain’s potential.
- Help you to work on your own brain detoxing plan.
On your marks, get set, READ.
The Learning Brain. Lessons For Education by Sarah-Jayne Blakemire and Uta Frith
“Compelling reading for anybody who wants a clear, authoritative account of how our brain learns. It will enthrall the widest possible readership.” – Professor Robert Winston (the famous scientist guy with the glasses and the moustache from the TV).
This book is basically a go-to guide explaining how the brain learns and works. It’s written in a short, punchy way that means there’s very little chance of being bored to death. Which is always a bonus.
The chapter on harnessing the learning powers of the brain is superb. Blakemire and Frith discuss unconventional ways in which the brain learns, with a focus on sleep, hypnosis, food and vitamins. They explore the power of the body clock and how, for example, circadian rhythms can affect your performance quite significantly.
Here’s an example of the jaw-dropping science-backed findings they use: “The performance of runners, for instance, peaks between noon and 9pm and is at its lowest between 3am and 6am. By organising training and races according to this circadian rhythm, top athletes can maximise their chances of winning races.”
The usually-scoffed-at power of hypnosis is examined with scientific explanation. Blakemore and Frith explain that “suggestions in hypnosis can produce changes in experience ranging from relaxation, increased concentration and a sense of well-being, which most people can achieve, to paralysis and hallucinations.” They’re willing to talk about these more ‘taboo’ topics, which makes for a much more dispassionate read, full of new ideas and insights.
Other topics covered are smart drugs and the placebo effect, the literate and illiterate brain, why we retain foreign accents, sensory development and different ways of learning and remembering.
Also… The glossary is a great go-to tool you can refer to whenever needed. With 9 pages of brain terms explained, it’s a super addition to this marvellous book. It includes explanations of neursociencey words and phrases such as gray matter, hippocampus, episodic memory, dopamine, cortisol and conditional learning. (It’s kind of worth buying the book just for the easy-to-use glossary.)
Quiet by Susan Cain
The power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.
“An extraordinary book that will change forever the way society views introverts.” – Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.
This book is exceptional. It is one of very few books which discusses introverts yet doesn’t offer help, tips and advice to purge your introversion. Instead of shaming this personality type it openly celebrates it. A tricky balance that Cain has nailed.
The book references a manageable amount of science to back-up any claims made. For example the finding that brainstorming in groups has been proven to negatively impact solo thought:
“Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe that their group performed much better than it actually did, which points to a valuable reason for their continued popularity – group brainstorming makes people feel attached. A worthy goal, so long as we understand that social glue, as opposed to creativity, is the principal benefit.”
Cain highlights how the power of working alone is severely underrated in 2020, especially in this collaboration-centric startup world. She also reveals the secrets to public speaking for introverts, which includes desensitising your brain, being yourself and only speaking about something that ignites a passion within you.
Cain explores topics such as how the rise of extroverts came to be and when it’s right to act more extroverted than you actually are. She also shines light on famous figures deemed to be overly confident and extrovert, but who are actually introverts, including Professor Brian Little, former Harvard University psychology lecturer and award winner.
Professor Little trained his brain into coping with extrovert moments, by devising something called the Free Trait Theory: “Little believes that traits and free traits coexist. According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits – introversion, for example – but we can and do act out of character in the service of core personal projects.” Projects which allow an introvert to act like an extrovert due to “work they consider important, people they love or anything they value highly.”
This book leaves the introvert reader with a sense of relief, optimism and confirmation that they (quietly) rock.
Gut by Giulia Enders
“Enders is utterly, charmingly obsessed with the gut… She writes and talks about the subject matter with such childlike enthusiasm it’s infectious.” – The Guardian.
Gut is a truly insightful book about what Enders describes as “our body’s most under-rated organ.” The book effortlessly describes how the gut has been scientifically linked to every part of the body, illnesses, psychological issues and the brain.
Enders lists the signals our guts can send to certain areas of the brain and these include the limbic system, the insula, the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus and the anterior cingulate cortex. She references digestible studies to back up any health claims made throughout the book, which adds real validity to her words. For example a study in 2013 is highlighted and shows that after taking a cocktail of good bacteria for 4 weeks, the brains of a group of participants actually altered “especially the areas responsible for processing emotions and pain.”
With interesting studies like these referenced throughout the book, there are also other mind-opening insights on every single page, such as:
“Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers also have an above-average incidence of anxiety or depressive disorders.” See what we mean?
She openly talks about poo, how to poo, how often to poo and what our poo should actually look like. There’s a diagram on page 69 where you can identify your poo-type from 7 images. (Don’t pretend like you don’t want to.)
The entire book will open your eyes to a whole new world of gut, body, poo and brain health that you didn’t think possible. It’s science-packed, interesting and yet at the same time it feels light-hearted. Which is refreshing. Here’s to a healthy gut AND brain in 2020.
Make this year the year to read and learn all about the powers of the brain. Because if you don’t do it now, when will you?
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