THE PLAYFUL BRAIN by Richard Restak


The Surprising Science of How Puzzles Improve Your Mind
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Neuroscientist Restak (Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Prescription for Improving Your Brain’s Performance, 2009, etc.) and puzzle-designer Kim provide mental activities, and the reasoning behind them, for brain-performance enhancement.

The brain never ceases to undergo structural and operational changes, writes the author in this lucid, entertaining book of how puzzles—with dozens of witty, stylish and often vexing examples created by Kim—can ward off the inevitable decline in brain function. Like muscle tissue, the brain needs stimulation to stay healthy, with practice and repeat exposure establishing and maintaining brain circuitry. Restak addresses concentration, memory, fine motor skills, visual observation, logic, numbers, vocabulary, visual-spatial thinking, imagination and creativity. For each function, he describes the workings of the relevant brain areas, and he clearly explains brain plasticity, synaptic connectivity, dendritic complexity and other such neurological terms. He also provides a selection of pertinent studies to illustrate our increasing knowledge of the brain’s landscape. The author is helpfully able to identify a weak function—for instance, in your ability to turn an image in your head, because “our schools neglect visual and spatial thinking, focusing instead on developing language and mathematics skills”—and then provide a number of opportunities to work on it. Kim’s puzzles run the gamut from engaging to bewildering, and although it can be disconcerting to be flummoxed by a puzzle considered to be kindergarten-level, Kim provides insightful tips and strategies, as well as the correct answers.

Never again will endlessly poring over a crossword or Sudoku puzzle be considered a waste of time.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59448-777-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2010


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