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"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid.

Humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant.

Together they are powerful beyond imagination."

- Albert Einstein

Book Review: Brain Rules

Sam Bridegroom  |  Posted Saturday, March 1st, 2014 at 10:31:36 PM

Image:Book Review: Brain Rules Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

Format I Used:
 Physical Book and Audible (strongly recommend Audible on this one)

This is a great follow-up book to Quiet, in that it goes into a lot of the science (from a very scientific angle) behind many of the studies cited by Susan Cain in Quiet. The author is a molecular biologist, who's spent a great deal of his career studying brain science. Reading the book was difficult - made me a little sleepy, because it's steeped in a lot of scientific terminology. Listening to the book, however, was quite entertaining and engaging. It's read by the author (which I almost always prefer), and his enthusiasm can be heard as he reads.

John Medina's approach to laying out 12 basic rules on how brains function is really interesting. To me, the fact he can boil it down to just 12 rules is pretty amazing, but his approach to these rules (with a lot of science behind each of them) is quite fascinating. The rules themselves are things most of us already know:
1.        Exercise boosts brain power.
2.        The human brain evolved, too.
3.        Every brain is wired differently.
4.        We don't pay attention to boring things.
5.        Repeat to Remember
6.        Remember to repeat.
7.        Sleep well, think well.
8.        Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
9.        Stimulate more of the senses.
10.        Vision trumps all other senses.
11.        Male and female brains are different.
12.        We are powerful and natural explorers.

Pretty straightforward, right? It's ok to read them and say "yeah, I can see that." It's the "why" these are listed as rules that's so interesting. Many of us already know that exercise keeps the brain working right, by releasing endorphins and other chemical "goodness" that keeps the mind working right. The same can be said for managing stress and getting sleep.

The other rules however offer subtle but great impact in to how we think, how we learn and how we teach. As I was listening rule #4, there's a lot of application to those of us who have to teach or present information. Rules 11 and 12 challenge long held ideas on how the classroom of today should be structured. The Stress Rule (#8) talks about the impact of stress as we working folk know it - but stress in the home or one's personal life can have crippling consequences on a person's performance. Rules 5 and 6 have some distinct benefits to fighting off things like Alzheimer's and dementia - not to mention just keeping us generally more mentally sharp.

The rules are a great reminder that our brain is another part of the body that needs proper care and feeding. Getting on the treadmill has a lot of redeeming cardio qualities, but it also has some redeeming neurologic qualities as well. And if we don't do the things we need to do to keep our minds right and develop younger minds the right way, the outcomes are negatively impacted.

If you're a teacher, a presenter, a manager or just wanting to understand a little better the science behind how human brains might work, it's well worth the read.

There's a second edition of this book coming in April - I'm looking forward to seeing what the differences are, because I'd listen to it again.

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