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During my last five years of my Carroll University teaching I became particularly interested in brain health and aging. Since retiring I have had the opportunity to read several excellent books dealing with these topics. By far, the best that I have read to date is High Octane Brain by Carroll University graduate and Harvard and Yale -trained board-certified neuropsychologist Dr. Michelle Braun. Highly praised by Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair, former Wisconsin governor Martin J. Shreiber, and a number of leading experts in the field the book gives the reader a helpful, hopeful, manageable, practical, and actionable plan for optimizing one’s brain health. 

The book’s unusual format is one of its many strengths. Woven throughout the chapters are interviews with eight brain health experts who add context and value to the chapter topics addressed.  At the end of chapters are “Top Takeaways” summaries. The scientific basis of the High Octane Brain program is well documented by over 200 references from well respected scientific journals and well-designed randomized clinical trials. The last two chapters introduce the reader to brain health success stories (role models) ages 44 to 83 and brain health hall of famers ages 91 to 103. Thematically woven into chapters throughout the book are two characters, Meredith and Lou, who take a seven week High Octane Brain class and who share their goals, challenges, and outcomes. A key component of the book included in Appendix I is the High-Octane Brain Action Planner and Tracking System.

The author does an excellent job of lucidly explaining the latest scientific thinking about brain aging and convincingly debunks myths and corrects misunderstandings and misconceptions about “brain training,” brain supplements and mindfulness. She is fair-minded in indicating when there is yet a need for additional research The five science-based steps she advocates leading to a High-Octane-Brain (exercise, consuming healthy food, engaging and learning, lowering stress while boosting well-being, and adequate sleep) are presented in the order in which the most and best scientific evidence supports the steps. She alerts the reader to the large number of ongoing, international randomized clinical trials whose preliminary findings offer empirical hope that systematically managing these life-style factors can indeed maximize brain health. 

Well-written, well-documented, full of pragmatic advice, helpful and hopeful – this book is a game changer well-deserving of being widely read and its ideas put into practice.  I’ve already attempted to incorporate its wisdom into my life even though it means cutting back on my pastry eating!