February 27, 2004
The brain was once a mysterious, hidden organ locked within our skulls. Modern brain science now provides us with insights about the brain that only a few decades ago would have been considered the stuff of science fiction. We can now study the brain in "real time," witnessing how it functions while actively engaged. Genetic mapping, image technology, and psychopharmacology have converged to give us an unprecedented understanding of how the brain works and how we can affect its operation. But what does this mean? Our brains have already been rewired by the modern age to work differently than they did just one hundred years ago, as we respond simultaneously to the barrage of media images and the demands of the modern world. "Cosmetic" drugs that work in the brain to prevent us from feeling drowsy, depressed, anxious, or fearful, or that enhance concentration and memory are already available. Dramatic treatments to repair damage in the brain are becoming common. Today's questions: Is Attention Deficit Disorder the brain syndrome of the future? Is it a "normal" response to our need to attend to several things at once? What happens in our brains when images replace language as the primary means of communication? How does exposure to violent and provocative imagery affect our brains? Can we train our brains to perform at a superior level? Are we all capable of "genius" achievements? Can we develop habits that will result in peak brain performance?
Richard Restak, M.D., is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine. Post Graduate training included a rotating internship at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, psychiatric residencies at Mount Sinai Hospital and Georgetown University Hospital, and a residency in neurology at George Washington University Hospital. Dr. Restak maintains a private practice in neurology and neuropsychiatry in Washington, DC and, concurrently, he is Clinical Professor of Neurology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and a member of the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at St Elizabeth's Hospital Overholser Division of Training. He was the recipient of Georgetown University Medical School's Linacre Medal for Humanity and Medicine in 1995 and Chicago Neurosurgical Center's Decade of the Brain Award in 1992. Dr. Restak has written 15 books on the human brain, contributed entries for the World Book Encyclopedia, Compton's Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, and has penned dozens of articles for the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He has appeared on the Discovery Channel, presented commentaries for National Public Radio's Morning Edition and All Things Considered and made numerous appearances on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and McNeil-Lehrer Report.