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Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School Paperback – Large Print, March 7, 2008
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- Item Weight : 1.65 pounds
- Paperback : 460 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0979777720
- ISBN-13 : 978-0979777721
- Product Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.04 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Pear Press (March 7, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #723,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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In almost all cases findings are presented backed by scientific, peer-reviewed research ("supporting research for each of my points must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal and then successfully replicated. Many of the studies have been replicated dozens of times." (p. 6)), except in those cases where there is not sufficient research, which the author points that out himself. This book is also an attempt to disabuse people against what are mostly urban myths and plausible-sounding theories of brain development, peddled by marketers with noble and not-so noble intentions.
It is an attempt to vaccinate against mythologies such as the "Mozart Effect," left brain/right brain personalities, and getting your babies into Harvard by making them listen to language tapes while they are still in the womb.
Each chapter in the book is organized around a single theme, or "rule", that describes an attribute of the brain.
For the sake of context, here are the rules:
1. Exercise - get the butt off the couch; it may help you think straight and live longer
2. Survival - our brains evolved to help us survive in the Savannah, to avoid becoming food. The rest is detail.
4. Attention - we cannot pay attention for more than 15 minutes at a time...
5. Short-term memory - remember the magic number seven, plus or minus two.
6. Long-term memory - it can take years, even decades for some memories to truly become embedded in our brains.
7. Sleep - the less sleep you get, the dumber you can get. Really. A short nap in the afternoon can do wonders for our concentration and productivity. A siesta is really not a bad idea. Workplaces refer to these as post-lunch meetings.
8. Stress - it's not good for your heart, it's not good for your brain.
9. Sensory integration
10. Vision - our eyes can deceive us. Our eyes have evolved to help us survive, first. Ogling came much later.
11. Gender - yes, there are some differences that can be explained by gender. But do not believe the ancients, like Aristotle who remarked, "... the female is an impotent male..." [location 3308]
It does then make for interesting and engrossing reading as you go through each of these twelve rules. Some chapters you will naturally be more interested in, while others are informational without being too entertaining, so to say. For me, the most interesting chapters were the ones on memory (both short-term and long-term), stress, and sleep.
A quibble, minor if you don't particularly care about references in books. The author states that to keep the book "reader-friendly" extensive references are available at [...]. I actually found this detracting from the utility of the book. I am used to flipping to the end of the book where the references are noted, and then back to the page I was reading. Reading an ebook on the Kindle makes this job of navigating to a reference at the end of the book easier (though Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains may disagree). Having to go to a web site is a distraction - the author should know that.
Secondly, the website itself is not very well organized if all you are interested in are the references. You have to click to go to a different page for each chapter (rule) in the book, and from that page click on a link at the right that reads, "References for this rule [PDF]". Each chapter's references are in a PDF file ([...] for instance). These could so easily have been included in the book itself. Keep the online references too by all means - they can serve as a place where these references are updated and new ones added. Thirdly, the book itself does not contain any numbering of the references within the text, so it is doubly difficult to figure out where in the PDF of references for a chapter to look for as a reference to something you have read in the book.
This is certainly one experiment that has failed.
On to the rest of the book now...
Ever wonder why the sages in ancient India developed the science of yoga? Even though these sages were supposed to sit and meditate on the meaning of life? And in which case what was the use for doing artistic aerobics? Well, yoga is exercise that is nectar for the body as well as the brain. What held true for the sages thousands of years ago is relevant even today.
A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary. Exercisers outperform couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so-called fluid-intelligence tasks.
Most important, these data, strong as they were, showed only an association, not a cause.In the laboratory, the gold standard appears to be aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at a clip, two or three times a week. Add a strengthening regimen and you get even more cognitive benefit.
Exercise improves children. Physically fit children identify visual stimuli much faster than sedentary ones. They appear to concentrate better.
Whereas the great Greek philosophers thought the brain was basically a dead piece of meat encased in a skull ("The Greeks didn't think the brain did much of anything. It just sat there like an inert pile of clay" (p. 200)), modern science has revealed the brain to be the, heart, so to say in a manner of speaking, of our human existence. The fact that the brain can consume massive amounts of energy also helps explain why we get tired even when we are sitting in a chair, but thinking furiously about some problem. The brain is at work, and it sucks in energy in huge gulps.
The brain represents only about 2 percent of most people's body weight, yet it accounts for about 20 percent of the body's total energy usage--about 10 times more than would be expected. When the brain is fully working, it uses more energy per unit of tissue weight than a fully exercising quadricep. In fact, the human brain cannot simultaneously activate more than 2 percent of its neurons at any one time. More than this, and the glucose supply becomes so quickly exhausted that you will faint.
Did you get that? The oft-repeated truism that we use only 2 percent of our brains is only partially true. The fact, as it turns out, is that we cannot physically make use of more than 2 percent, at ANY given point in time. It does NOT mean that we use only the SAME two percent of our brain. This little, but significant, distinction is often lost in repetition.
Here is a conundrum.
When we are distracted or accused of being distracted, it usually means we are focusing on more than one thing at a time, and paying less attention to the task at hand. When it comes to the brain however, the reverse is true in some contexts, especially when the brain is tasked with remembering things.
Whether you are a waiter or a brain scientist, if you want to get the particulars correct, don't start with details. Start with the key ideas and, in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions.
Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50 percent more errors.
Ever ponder as to why we forget almost everything we learn in class? Of course it is because the teacher was boring, the subject was boring, you were tired, you were distracted, the room was too hot, there was a cricket match going on, and of course because there was this new movie you had to catch at the theater after school, and of course the cute girl in class looked at you and smiled for a second, which was enough for you to forget what happened in class during the next hour. Well, partly true. The part about the cute girl looking in your direction would be an ECS. An" emotionally charged event (usually called an ECS, short for emotionally competent stimulus) is the best-processed kind of external stimulus ever measured." (p. 80). But seriously, you don't have cute girls eyeing you in every class? So why do we forget what we learn, and that too so fast?
Hermann Ebbinghaus was born in 1850. As a young man, he looked like a cross between Santa Claus and John Lennon, with his bushy brown beard and round glasses. He is most famous for uncovering one of the most depressing facts in all of education: People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days. He further showed that the majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class. This has been robustly confirmed in modern times. [page 100, location 1352]
The things we learn are also usually associated with a mood. Recall the event and you usually recall the mood also. Which is why it is better to be happier when learning than sad. Or, look at it this way; if you are sad when learning mathematics, because you are having to learn about differential calculus and finite integration, then you will be sad when you have to remember calculus, and before you know it you will have associated math with sad feelings.
Learn something while you are sad and you will be able to recall it better if, at retrieval, you are somehow suddenly made sad. The condition is called context-dependent or state-dependent learning.
the passage of time inexorably leads to a weakening of events and facts that were once clear and chock-full of specifics. In an attempt to fill in missing gaps, the brain is forced to rely on partial fragments, inferences, outright guesswork, and often (most disturbingly) other memories not related to the actual event. It is truly reconstructive in nature,
Another nugget about memory, both short-term and long-term is that the key to remembering is repetition and associating facts and events with other facts and events. Look at it as a highly sophisticated form of indexing and cross-referencing (relational joins, if you will). To help remember something effectively, make the association vivid. Why do people usually associate the actress Zeenat Aman most with the movie Satyam Shivam Sundaram? It's the vividness of the imagery sir.
Why do examples work? They appear to take advantage of the brain's natural predilection for pattern matching. Information is more readily processed if it can be immediately associated with information already present in the learner's brain.
At relatively early periods post-learning (say minutes to hours to days), retrieval systems allow us to reproduce a fairly specific and detailed account of a given memory.
the relationship between repetition and memory is clear. Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information if you want to retrieve it later. Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately if you want the retrieval to be of higher quality. Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately, and in fixed, spaced intervals, if you want the retrieval to be the most vivid it can be.
In the chapter on sleep, a couple of nuggets stand out in their illustration on how sleep deprivation affects the brain.
When people become sleep-deprived, for example, their ability to utilize the food they are consuming falls by about one-third. The ability to make insulin and to extract energy from the brain's favorite dessert, glucose, begins to fail miserably.
For example, if healthy 30-year-olds are sleep-deprived for six days (averaging, in this study, about four hours of sleep per night), parts of their body chemistry soon revert to that of a 60-year-old. And if they are allowed to recover, it will take them almost a week to get back to their 30-year-old systems.
While "emotionally competent stimuli" can help us remember things more effectively, and such events "persist much longer in our memories", it is important to distinguish such ECS from outright stress. When you subject the brain to stress, it collapses into a primal, survival state. So forget about learning.
Stressed brains do not learn the same way as non-stressed brains. My grief at least had an end-point. Imagine growing up in an emotionally unstable home, where the stress seems never-ending. Given that stress can powerfully affect learning, one might predict that children living in high-anxiety households would not perform as well academically as kids living in more nurturing households.
One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home.
And here is more, a lot more on stress. Now, don't get stressed reading about what stress can do to you and your brain.
... brain's hypothalamus, that pea-size organ sitting almost in the middle of your head. When your sensory systems detect stress, the hypothalamus reacts by sending a signal to your adrenal glands, lying far away on the roof of your kidneys. The glands immediately dump bucketloads of adrenaline into your bloodstream. The overall effect is called the fight or flight response. [page 174]
Consequently, our stress responses were shaped to solve problems that lasted not for years, but for seconds. They were primarily designed to get our muscles moving us as quickly as possible, usually out of harm's way.
Over the long term, however, too much adrenaline stops regulating surges in your blood pressure. These unregulated surges create sandpaper-like rough spots on the insides of your blood vessels. The spots turn into scars, which allow sticky substances in the blood to build up there, clogging your arteries. [page 176]
Over the long term, stress ravages parts of the immune system involved in producing antibodies. Together, these can cripple your ability to fight infection.
the hippocampus is deeply involved in many aspects of human learning. Stress hormones can make cells in the hippocampus more vulnerable to other stresses. Stress hormones can disconnect neural networks, the webbing of brain cells that act like a safety deposit vault, storing your most precious memories. They can stop the hippocampus from giving birth to brand-new baby neurons. Under extreme conditions, stress hormones can even kill hippocampal cells. [page 179]
In summary, with the exception of the misstep over references, this is an excellent book. Highly recommended.
I've just finished reading Brain Rules, by John Medina. It's an interesting and easy read and has a whole lot of insight on how we perceive and process information. This book could have easily been entitled "Presentation Rules" as it covers important visual perception concepts relevant for salespeople making presentations in PowerPoint. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
Here are few relevant points:
1. The typical PowerPoint slide presentation has 42 words per slide.
2. Words and orally presented information suffer in comparison to the use of images;
- If information is presented in bullet form with oral comment, typically 10% is remembered after 3 days
- Simply add a picture and recall goes to 65%
3. In one study, subjects were shown 2500 images for 10 seconds each and could recall 90% of them within several days and were able to remember 63% of them one year later.
4. The brain is doing orders of magnitude more work to get the meaning from a sentence than a picture - words are in effect lots of small pictures that the brain needs to reconstruct and sequence to derive meaning from.
5. Pictures are stored in the brain as complete entities and available for instant recall. You don't have to construct an image of a clock-face nor a light bulb in your mind to recognize it, mere mention of them conjures the image that is already stored in your brain - so use more images.
6. The brain/mind is easily bored.
- You have 30 seconds at the start of the presentation to hook your audience.
- A hook is a story or anecdote to engage the audience emotionally.
- If you haven't engaged them by this time, then you are sunk as they will begin to occupy their mind with other things and pay scant attention to you and your presentation.
- You should structure your presentation in 10 minute chunks, because after 10 minutes the mind begins to wander. At the end of the 10 minute chunk we need to use another hook to re-engage the audience for another 10 minutes.
If you want your big idea to be remembered, then create a simple images to convey it.
Structure your presentation into 10 minute content chunks and tell brief stories for 30 seconds every 10 minutes to re-engage your audience.
Visual Storytelling Webinar
Relevant ideas from Brain Rules have been incorporated into a new visual storytelling webinar published in late December 2012, entitled "Your PowerPoint Presentations Suck - and what you can do about it", and I invite you to view it.
This Webinar consists of the three 10 minute content chunks,
An introduction to visual storytelling.
Top reviews from other countries
John Medina is a neuroscientist with a deep passion for learning and education and he explains the principles that he thinks are important using 12 simple Rules. I love things that are researched and there's lots of research in here but it's written in a very engaging way - in fact I think he's thought hard about his rules as he's written it. There are certainly some memorable stories and other devices to help things to stick.
The style is easy to read and quite light hearted but he suggests some innovative and potentially challenging ways for educators and businesses to change the way they engage with people and help them learn better. His suggestions are aimed at the United States education system but the rules appear to be universally applicable, based on available data.
So rule 1 is that of Exercise - we think better when our bodies are engaged as well as our brains and this is hardly a new concept but Medina explains it with examples about real people, experimental data and longitudinal studies. He discusses cognitive fitness at all ages and talks about the long term effects of exercise on our mental abilities as we age. There are some interesting facts about the brain and he explains complex neuroscience using analogies and metaphors.
The writing style is personal, engaging and clear so that when you encounter technical terms like dentate gyrus or Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor you've still got processing power left to handle them and don't feel overwhelmed by complexity. More science should be written up like this so that more people can understand it.
A lot of the information in the book is published in other places but it's a very accessible and memorable way to understand more about neuroscience if you're not an expert - and I do like the way he's tried to follow his own rules with summaries, stories, sensory language and a structure that leads you through and allows you to find what you want.
At the end of each chapter is a set of ideas for implementing the rules so it's a very practical book but he's also calling for more research to be done because he wants to avoid people making large and spurious claims about the way to live, work or educate based on random scientific findings. We don't know enough about how the brain works yet to be prescriptive - we need to experiment, test and remain flexible in our approaches.
Medina has a powerful chapter on why we find images useful so it's a pity there aren't more pictures to illustrate his points but I guess that's down to the publisher.
This book feels like a generous book because he appears to share so much and so willingly. There's also some bonus material online but I haven't had a chance to look at that yet - if you have seen it then do let me know what you thought.
All in all an interesting and comfortable read with some very useful implications for the way we all live and work.
As a lay person, medically, I found the book absolutely riveting and once started, hard to put down. It reinforced what I've been doing for years and has given me some scientific basis for whatever success I've had in helping people of all ages and abilites to develop their skills and knowledge.
John Medina has helped me to build on whatever abilites I had as a trainer. I recommend this book to any trainer who wants to understand a little of what the brain can do.
Do what you say!
But about 100 times better than a related book called "Spark!"