“Brain Rules” is a New York best seller written by the Puget Sound author, John Medina, an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. He has a website where you can watch video explanations, interviews by King 5’s Jean Enersen, and read more about his presentation of ways our brains truly work. This book was recommended to parents by LMS teacher Rachel Kizer at open house last week and since I own the book, I thought I would share with you each of the twelve brain rules, one every week or so. I highly recommend the book and checking out his website:www.brainrules.net
The first rule is … Exercise boosts brain power. Our brains were built for walking, so to improve your thinking skills, move. Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting. Aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia and cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%. John Medina.
Second Rule: The human brain evolved, too. We don’t have one brain in our heads; we have three. We started with a “lizard brain” to keep us breathing, then added a brain like a cat’s, and then topped those with the thin layer of jell-o known as the cortex – the third, and powerful “human brain”. Symbolic reasoning is a uniquely human talent. It may have arisen from our need to understand one another’s intentions and motivations, allowing us to coordinate within a group.
Third Rule: Every brain is wired differently. Because what you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like- it literally rewires it, no two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place. The various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people. There are a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.
Rule #4: People don’t pay attention to boring things. The brain’s attentional “spotlight” can focus on only one thing at a time: no multitasking. We are better at seeing patterns and abstracting the meaning of an event than we are at recording details. Emotional arousal helps the brain learn. Audiences check out after 10 min. so to keep grabbing them back, tell narratives or create events rich in emotion.
Rule #5: The brain has many types of memory systems. One type follows four stages of processing: encoding, storing, retrieving, and forgetting. Information coming into your brain is immediately split into fragments that are sent to different regions of the cortex for storage. Most of the events that predict whether something learned also will be remembered, occur in the first few seconds of learning. The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments, the stronger it will be. You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.
Rule #6: Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time. Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortes, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex, which can take years. Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one. The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.
Rule #7: Sleep well=think well. The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake. The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when you’re asleep, perhaps replaying what you learned that day. People vary in how much sleep they need and when they prefer to get it, but the biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal. Loss of sleep hurts attention executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reason, and even motor dexterity.
Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. Chronic stress, such as hostility at home, dangerously deregulates a system built only to deal with short-term responses. Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem – you are helpless. Emotional stress has huge impacts across society, on children’s ability to learn in school and on employees productivity at work.
Rule #9: We absorb info. about an event through our senses, translate it into electrical signals, disperse those signals to separate parts of the brain, then reconstruct what happened, eventually perceiving the event as a whole. The brain seems to rely partly on past experience in deciding how to combine these signals so two people can perceive the same event very differently. Our senses evolved to work together which means that we learn best if we stimulate several sense at once. Smells have an unusual power to bring back memories.
Rule #10: Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources. What we see is only what our brain tells us we see, and it’s no 100% accurate. The visual analysis we do has many steps. The retina assembles photons into little movie-like streams of info. The visual cortex processes these streams, some areas registering motion, others color, etc. Finally we combine that info. back together so we can see. We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.
Rule #11: Male and female brains are different. The X chromosome that males have one of and females have two of (1 acts as a backup) is a cognitive “hot spot” carrying an unusually large percentage of genes involved in brain manufacture. Women are generically more complex because the active X chromosomes in their cells are a mix of Mom and Dad’s. Men’s X chromosomes all come from Mom and their Y chromosome carries less than 100 genes, compared with about 1,500 for the X. Men’s and women’s brains are also different structurally and biochemically. Both sexes also respond differently to acute stress: Women activate the left hemisphere’s amygdala and remember the emotional details while men use the right amygdala and get the gist.
Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers. Babies are the model of how we learn- not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion. Specific parts of the brain allow this scientific approach. We can recognize and imitate behavior because of “mirror neurons” scattered across the brain. Some parts of our adult brains stay as malleable as a baby’s, so we can create neurons and learn new things throughout our lives.
Hope this has been an interesting and educational post! For more info., visit http://www.brainrules.net (link above).