Two books and a podcast series explore how we can improve our minds.

Music may inspire us to dance, but can the right melody help improve our mental health? Yes, it can, according to Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect, and Alex Doman, an expert in music therapy. In Healing at the Speed of Sound (Hudson Street Press, 2011), the authors explore how we can use different soundtracks and even silence to tap into our brain's creative side and to make us more efficient, relaxed and healthy.

The constant buzz of your cell phone or the compulsion to check e-mail may make it difficult for you to find a peaceful moment to think and reflect. In The Thinking Life (St. Martin's Press, 2011), P. M. Forni, civility expert and professor at Johns Hopkins University, emphasizes the importance of serious reflection for improving our creativity, attention and problem-solving skills and offers suggestions for ways to focus our scattered brains.

We all know how stressful a breakup can be, but we still do not understand the brain chemistry behind this natural response or how best to dampen it. In a free podcast from the series NeuroScene, Harvard University professor Sara Lazar discusses her neuroimaging studies, which demonstrate that meditation increases the concentration of gray matter in specific areas of the brain thought to be associated with stress, memory and empathy. Tune in to previous and upcoming podcasts to learn how the brain copes with stress and panic.
Victoria Stern