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Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

by John Medina

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Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
Pear Press, March 2008

According to developmental molecular biologist Dr. John Medina, a brain rule is something that scientists know for sure about how our brains work. In Brain Rules, Medina presents 12 of these in 12 chapters, complete with neurological details and scientific case studies. The author follows up with his own ideas about how we might implement this knowledge to improve our lives and learning.

"If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom." Our corporate cubicle culture also runs directly counter to what we know about how the brain works best, and Medina shows readers how.
Brain Rule #1 concerns exercise. The human brain evolved over millions of years during which we walked 12 miles each day. Medina suggests that we better incorporate the cognitive advantages of exercise into the classroom and the workplace. The author's ideal workplace would integrate treadmills and stationary bicycles into the office environment, as exercise has been shown to boost "executive function" such as solving problems, maintaining attention, and inhibiting emotional impulses. Medina's work on exercise was recently selected by Harvard Business Review as one of its "breakthrough ideas for 2008."

Schools might pay particular attention to Brian Rule #3, "every brain is wired differently," in reconsidering classrooms grouped by age rather than by learning strategies. Brain Rule #5, "repeat to remember," states that people ususally forget classroom learning within 30 days. Medina cites studies showing how timed repetition can help put learning into students' long-term memory.
A molecular biologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, Medina gives credence to the very real benefits of the mid-afternoon nap, explains why multi-tasking is a dangerous myth, and suggests creative possibilities for the use of smell in school and in business. Brain Rules, engagingly humorous in its tone, comes with a DVD and a web site, www.brainrules.net, for further exploration, because, as Medina informs us in Brain Rule #12, the importance of curiosity is the greatest brain rule of all.
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