STARRED REVIEW
January 2020

Successful Aging

By John W. Rowe
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It’s no secret that our brain is a complex thinking machine. But in addition to our thoughts, a huge number of other processes are controlled by our brains, which evolve and change as we age. In Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives, Daniel J. Levitin (This Is Your Brain on Music) outlines the brain’s development throughout our lifespan and explains how a few tweaks here and there can improve our prospects, particularly in the later stages of life.

Levitin’s decades of knowledge as a neuroscientist provide the backbone of this sizable (at 500-plus pages) book. Focusing on three main topics—development, choices and longevity—he explains the synergy between our brains and everything they encounter, from our social interactions, genetics and environment to activities such as eating, sleeping and exercise. But beyond the facts and statistics (although there are plenty of interesting ones), Levitin personalizes his writing, providing dozens of case studies and examples from his research, as well as his own experiences. 

Although the aging process can ravage the brain, Levitin demonstrates that this is by no means the only possible outcome. He stresses that “aging is not simply a period of decay, but a unique developmental stage that—like infancy or adolescence—brings with it its own demands and its own advantages.” He reaches back into childhood to highlight the factors that affect our brain later in life and explains how our responses and subsequent behaviors are modified along with our aging bodies. He also covers the most recent research on everything from psychedelic drugs to the length of telomeres (nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome), drilling down to what’s science fiction and what’s reality. 

With more and more of the population living longer, Successful Aging is a timely and relevant guide that will appeal to all age groups, giving us the motivation to keep our minds active and engaged.

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Successful Aging

Successful Aging

By John W. Rowe
Pantheon
ISBN 9780375400452

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