Journalist and filmmaker Max Lugavere has committed his life to exploring and understanding brain health, prompted by the loss of his mom to dementia that began at the unusually young age of 58. His newest book, Genius Life: Heal Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body, and Become Extraordinary, has just been released. Written with genuine heartfelt passion and attention to detail, Max has crafted a wonderful book for anyone interested in understanding how to preserve brain health and bolster brain performance.

Here is an excerpt from the especially well-crafted chapter he calls “The Vigor Trigger”:

Ice, Ice, Baby
Prior to the relative safety of the modern world, dramatic swings in temperature frequently implied physical threat. Imagine, as a hunter- gatherer, fishing for your family on a frozen lake. One day, you pass over thin ice, suddenly falling through and into the frigid water. In seconds, you went from enjoying a routine day on the ice to facing possible—if not probable—death. Your body launches into action: your muscles contract, grabbing on to what’s left of the ice and vaulting you out of the water with seemingly superhuman strength.

Much as you’d like to credit your brawn for your survival abilities, your brain played just as crucial a role. That night as you speak of your heroics, you mention feeling as though your experience oc- curred in slow motion, even though it all took place within an instant. This is common during stressful events, as senses heighten and reaction time quickens. Your brain also takes precautions to prevent it from happening again, logging the minutiae of the event with the crystal-clear precision of a high-speed camera. You share details that on most days you’d have barely noticed; location, the sound the ice made as it cracked, time of day, weather, and the like are all duly noted with crystalline accuracy.

Many of these cognitive effects can be traced to a chemical messenger in the brain called norepinephrine, which spikes sharply during a stressful event. It’s known for supporting laser-like focus, attention, and detailed memory storage, and low levels are related to ADHD, feelings of lethargy, and lack of focus and concentration. But the neurotransmitter also plays a role in depression; many anti- depressant drugs aim to work by boosting it. Harnessing the power of norepinephrine may therefore provide a lever to both increased mental vigilance and a brighter mood—even if it means getting out of your comfort zone and enduring the occasional cold.

True to his promise to provide actionable advice, Max goes onto discussing how cold exposure and cryotherapy can be used to enhance mental clarity and energy, while heat exposure such as that experienced in a sauna yields nitric oxide-driven benefits such as reduced blood pressure. There are also excellent discussions about endocrine disrupting chemicals, heavy metal toxicity, detoxification, and a comprehensive plan to put all this information into practical use.

Perhaps due to his background in filmmaking, Genius Life reads like Max is telling stories, making the read enjoyable as well as informative. If there is one book you invest in to gain awareness of all the things that you can do to improve brain health, sharpen focus, preserve memory, and delivered in an enjoyable down-to-earth voice, Genius Life would be an excellent choice.