A British science writer uses her own brain to explore what researchers have been working on and to discover how her own shortcomings might be overcome.
In her debut book, Williams, a consultant for New Scientist magazine and a contributor to the BBC and the Guardian, asks whether recent advances in technology can improve some of her cognitive abilities. She chose six specific areas of focus—attention, anxiety, creativity, navigation, time perception, and number sense—each of which is currently receiving intensive study by neuroscientists and psychologists, in order to understand how performance can be improved. Among other places, the author’s research travels took her to centers in Boston, Philadelphia, and Lawrence, Kansas, in the United States, Oxford and Keele universities in England, and Ghent University in Belgium. She briefly profiles the researchers and chronicles her informative interviews with them, also noting her personal experiences with whatever system they were working on. The conditions of Williams’ participation vary, and so do the results, often displayed in simple charts and diagrams that add little to the text except perhaps a slight scientific air. Readers hoping to improve their own cognitive abilities may feel a bit of a letdown by the author’s old-fashioned, down-to-earth advice: exercise your body, preferably outdoors, learn mindful meditation but also allow your mind to wander, engage in a mentally challenging hobby, and pick the skill you want to improve and practice it in real life. In the concluding chapter, Williams reports that the world of neuroscience is “teetering on the brink of a new world,” and based on the advances already underway, the future is likely to be full of technological innovations that may well enhance one’s brain power.
An easy-to-read journey through the world of brain research that gives a glimpse of what is happening there, all done with a highly personal touch.