Smarter: A book review by Bob Morris

SmarterSmarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power
Dan Hurley
Hudson Street Press/The Penguin Group (2013)

How and why revelations from recent research in neuroscience help us to be smarter about becoming smarter

With rare exception, the best works of non-fiction provide a journey of discovery for their reader and that is certainly true of this one, together with the significant value-added benefit that those who read it accompany Dan Hurley on his own journey of discovery as he attempts to determine whether or not he or anyone else is smart enough to make himself smarter. As he explains, he met with more than 200 eminent scientists and other experts on brain training and road-tested many of the methods on himself. He serves as his own guinea pig while learning to play the Renaissance lute, joining an intense “boot camp” mental exercise class, attempting mindfulness meditation, and even undergoing transcranial direct-current stimulation (“Jumper Cables for the Mind”). He shares what he learned in this book.

For example:

o Although results vary between and among those who receive mental training, it really can help almost anyone can become smarter.

o Some of these programs are more scientific than others in terms of design, instruction, and measurement.

o Becoming smarter does not necessarily mean becoming wiser.

o Mental training as a science is less than ten years old, in its infancy, and so much more needs to be learned about how it can help make people smarter about becoming smarter.

o One of the most valuable — and most exciting — areas of research to explore consists of ways to train certain functions for those who belief in plasticity, “which is really indisputable at this point.”

When reflecting back on his journey of discovery, Hurley observes, “If intelligence is calculated by what we do, you hold in your hands the single best measure of mine. My days of training were filled purposeful, challenging tasks of all kinds…The tasks were hard, but they were fun. I got along better with my wife and daughter. I no longer found myself getting into my car and realizing that I ‘d forgotten my briefcase. I went on nearly a dozen trips to scientific meetings around the country during the same period, booking all my flights and rental cars and hotels but experiencing none of the stress and sense of being overwhelmed that I’d expected. And then I wrote this book. It sounds past and clichéd, but what can I tell you? I feel smarter”….

And so will those who read Dan Hurley’s book.

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