In his new book, "Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age" (Simon & Schuster), neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, M.D., writes about how to keep the brain in shape as we age, to protect it from decline.
Read the excerpt below, and don't miss Dr. Jon LaPook's interview with Dr. Gupta onJanuary 3!
When I was in medical school in the early 1990s, conventional wisdom was that brain cells, such as neurons, were incapable of regenerating. We were born with a fixed set and that was it; throughout life, we'd slowly drain the cache (and accelerate that killing off with bad habits like drinking too much alcohol and smoking marijuana – the truth about that later). Perhaps it was the eternal optimist in me, but I never believed that our brain cells simply stopped growing and regenerating. After all, we continue to have novel thoughts, deep experiences, vivid memories, and new learning throughout our lives. It seemed to me that the brain wouldn't just wither away unless it was no longer being used. By the time I finished my neurosurgery training in 2000, there was plenty of evidence that we could nurture the birth of new brain cells (called neurogenesis) and even increase the size of our brains. It was a staggeringly optimistic change in how we view the master control system of our bodies. Indeed, every day of your life, you can make your brain better, faster, fitter, and, yes, sharper. I am convinced of that. (I'll get to the bad habits later; they don't necessarily kill brain cells, but when they are abused, they can alter the brain, especially its memory powers.)
Let me say at the outset: I am certainly a fan of excellent education, but this is not what "Keep Sharp" is all about. This book is less about improving intelligence or IQ and more about both propagating new brain cells and making the ones you have work more efficiently. This isn't so much about remembering a list of items, performing well on exams, or executing tasks adeptly (though all of those goals will be more achievable with a better brain). In "Keep Sharp," you will learn to build a brain that connects patterns others might miss and helps you better navigate life. You will develop a brain able to toggle back and forth between short-term and long-term views of the world and, perhaps most important, a brain highly resilient in the face of life experiences that might be disabling to someone else.
From "Keep Sharp" by Sanjay Gupta, M.D. Copyright © 2021 by Sanjay Gupta, M.D. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
For more info:
- "Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age" by Sanjay Gupta, M.D. (Simon & Schuster), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available January 5 via Amazon and Indiebound
- Follow Dr. Gupta on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
- Sanjay Gupta, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, Emory University School of Medicine