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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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...
Published 18 months ago by Robert Morris

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Would have made a great 4 page magazine feature
A classic example of how to spin out a handful of really good ideas into a whole book, thereby diluting them and wasting readers' time and money. The basic premise is that inteligence is not fixed and you can train your brain just as you can do with your body in a gym. So far so good. Hurley gives us a bunch of things to do that may help boost fluid intelligence...
Published 15 months ago by Late-Night Reader


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Would have made a great 4 page magazine feature, 28 April 2014
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This review is from: Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power (Kindle Edition)
A classic example of how to spin out a handful of really good ideas into a whole book, thereby diluting them and wasting readers' time and money. The basic premise is that inteligence is not fixed and you can train your brain just as you can do with your body in a gym. So far so good. Hurley gives us a bunch of things to do that may help boost fluid intelligence. Things like exercise (especially where you can track and improve your performance), N-back working memory training games, learning a musical instrument, drink coffee, use nicotine patches. Also he made himself a human guinea pig by testing his iQ before and after this training. All great stuff - but would only fill a couple of chapters. So how to pad out the book? Well he just did tons of interviews with various fueding academics in the field and jouranlistically threw in their quotes everywhere and dramatised their spats - for chapter after chapter. If you have the paperback book you can get full value from skimming through it - this was a bit harder on the Kindle edition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars padded, self indulgent, but often interesting and informative, 27 Mar. 2014
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J. Minton - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power (Kindle Edition)
The good: provides a nice introduction and summary of the emerging academic fields of brain training. the author is engaged but sufficiently sceptical of the claims and evidence.

The bad: trying to force this material into a "journey" narrative format leads to it switching to a more narrative form in places, which can be useful for getting the social texture of academic and commercial research but also invites navel gazing and padding.

The good: revealed some behind the scenes discussions between academics, some of which were surprising (for example, research on the cognitive effects on nicotine).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why revelations from recent research in neuroscience help us to be smarter about becoming smarter, 1 Feb. 2014
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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 was 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, Dan 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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2.0 out of 5 stars It started well by describing some of the available ways/products to use but then went into 100`s of pages of research evidence, 20 Jun. 2015
By 
Mr. Andrew Malcolm (UK) - See all my reviews
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I was hoping for a book that would really help me to get smarter. It started well by describing some of the available ways/products to use but then went into 100`s of pages of research evidence that simply bored the pants off me. This is not a book written to make you smarter but more a indication of where research stands regarding the issue of memory/intelligence. Waste of money for me !
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some real surprises in the latest science on brain training, 5 Feb. 2014
By 
Brian Clegg "Brian Clegg" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The knee-jerk reaction on seeing this book was ‘it’s going to be rubbish’, as it is widely publicised that most commercial ‘brain training’ products have no more value than any activity that keeps the mind active, from reading a book to chatting to a next-door neighbour. And while an active mind is valuable in keeping alert in old age, it gives no advantages in terms of ‘brain power’ whether you consider that as IQ or something a bit more subtle.

In fact, I needn’t have worried, because Dan Hurley is aware of this, and is approaching a very specific aspect of training, using an intense methodology, which has shown some interesting results in proper scientific testing.

Along the way, he decides to see if he can enhance his own brain, so takes a MENSA test, then engages in as many brain enhancing activities as he can before being re-tested – from physical exercise to a nicotine patch – which have been shown to have some benefit in mental acuity. Perhaps the most interesting bit of the book is where he assesses all the different possibilities, dismissing some (eating the right thing, apart from drinking coffee, for instance) and taking others on board, all based on our best current science.

Another favourite is the final section, where we see played out a significant battle between academics, some sticking to the traditional argument that all training does is train you to be better at that particular test, some open to a wide range of possibilities. It’s interesting, apart from anything else, to show just how different theories are sometimes handled in the academic community.

The only part of the book I felt didn’t quite work was a longish section on Down’s syndrome, not because it wasn’t important or interesting, but because it didn’t quite fit with everything else, centred around Hurley’s personal test, and the result was that overall the book’s structure seemed a little haphazard.

As long as you don’t object too much to the author’s slightly patronising magazine writer’s style, that makes him feel the urge to put in a number of unnecessary personal descriptions (take for instance ‘Tall, blond and good-looking: in another words, a typical Swiss’), this should prove a fascinating read on a truly interesting topic.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book. Easy to read full of great ideas and it will open your mind. I highly recomemmend this book., 19 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power (Kindle Edition)
Easy to read, full of great ideas and it will open your mind. I highly recomemmend this book. I am already practicing some of its ideas!
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review, 30 Jan. 2014
A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: The idea that we can boost our brain power through interventions of various kinds has been around a long time. Over the years, numerous drugs, diets and other practices (including everything from physical exercise to learning a new language or musical instrument to meditation to even zapping the brain with electrodes) have been purported to pump up our mental strength. And lately, a new practice has been added to this list: brain-training games and exercises. Indeed, in the past decade a whole new industry has emerged around brain-training programs. Built on the premise that specific types of mental activities can strengthen our cognitive skills and add to general intelligence, companies such as Lumosity and LearningRx have convinced millions of paying customers that their product will give them an edge in the brains department.

The more skeptical among us, however, may find ourselves wondering just what is the scientific basis behind all these brain games and other interventions. It was just this thought that occurred to science writer Dan Hurley; and so, following his skeptical sense, Hurley decided to investigate the matter for himself. What Hurley found was a scientific field that, though young, is bustling with activity (and controversy).

The new science of building brain power may be said to have truly kicked off in 2002. In that year, Swedish psychologist Torkel Klingberg performed a study wherein he found that subjects diagnosed with ADHD improved in both attention span and general intelligence after undergoing a brain-training program that involved working-memory exercises (it was this very study that kick-started the brain training industry).

The finding flew in the face of the long-accepted belief that intelligence simply could not be enhanced through training; and therefore, it sparked a great deal of interest in the scientific community. Eager to test the new finding, scientists from all over the world launched their own studies. While not all of the studies replicated the results that Klingberg found, many did; and enough promising results were found to draw even more interest into the field (while those who found negative results began setting up a staunch opposition to the research).

Despite the minority opposition, the long-held belief in immovable intelligence was rocked, and scientists began testing other kinds of interventions as well (including all of those mentioned above). While many of the interventions tested were found to have no effect on cognitive functioning, some did, and thus the new field gained even more momentum.

Wanting very much to get to the bottom of the matter (and the controversy) Hurley decided to check out the studies himself, and also to interview the major researchers in the field (on both sides of the debate). Based on this investigation (which is explored at length in the book), Hurley launched his own brain-training experiment-on himself. Specifically, Hurley took all of those interventions which he felt had the best evidence behind them and incorporated them into a grand brain-training program to see whether he could improve his intelligence.

The routine included the following: A boot camp program (that incorporated both aerobic exercise and resistance training); Lumosity; learning a new musical instrument (the lute); mindfulness meditation; a nicotine patch; coffee; and transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS). The results of the experiment? They were mixed.

Hurley's exploration of the new field of building brain power (as well as his own experiment on himself) is fascinating (and often hilarious). One of the strong points of the book is how much detail Hurley gives regarding the experiments that he investigates. However, there is one detail that Hurley often leaves out that would be nice to have: rather than specifying exactly how much a given intervention improved intelligence in terms of percentages, Hurley often confines himself to mentioning whether the improvement was statistically significant or not (which leaves us without a good indication of exactly how well a given intervention worked). Still, Hurley's book is very well researched, and both highly interesting and entertaining. A great resource for those who are interested in getting past the hype of brain boosting, and investigating the actual science. A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Animals and drugs or exercise and music, 21 May 2014
Dan Hurley concentrates mainly on conferences, rats and medications to ask: 'Can I make myself smarter?' [Spoiler warning] Yes, he says, by 3%. 'Fluid intelligence' gets splashed around here a lot. Sadly, like 'working memory' I feel its use may be abandoned within a hundred years. Lesson 1: organise your memories. People with Down's syndrome respond to training, this was known to John Down who first described the condition.
I hope this book reminds everyone to get out more and take up a musical instrument instead of hammering away on consoles [like this] in the misguided belief that they're staving off Alzheimer's. Where's that Sudoku puzzle?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great product and price, delivery fast., 22 Jun. 2015
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Great product and price, delivery fast.
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