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

By John Medina, 2014, Pear Press, Seattle, WA, USA. Updated and expanded edition. ISBN-13: 978-0983263371 (last viewed price: US$9.15 on Amazon.com, softcover)

Rated approximately 4.5 stars on Amazon. Ranked #6791 in Books, and #'s 4, 11, and 20 in various "cognitive" and "neuroscience" categories.

From the jacket: "John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. He is an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He was the founding director of two brain research institutes."

This is an entertaining and remarkably informative journey about the (mostly) human brain. While Dr. Medina occasionally dips into brain physiology ("The amygdala is responsible for the creation of emotions and the memories they generate."), most of the discussion is about how researchers think the brain works. The discussion guides the reader toward effective methods for self-improvement, parenting, and teaching.

Our Savanna History

As early humanoids came out of the trees:

Every Brain is Different

I was surprised at the brain variations. "Left" and "right" brain operations, for example, are not nearly as defined as commonly believed. Memory storage is widely distributed and only partially localized in brain sectors. Children's brains develop is as diversely as they appear physically.

The "terrible two's" and the "terrible teens": At about age two and during the teen years, the neurons in a brain experience a large increase in the number of connections formed. These are afterward pruned to typical adult levels.

Memories are volatiles and subject to corruption. Brains do not rest during sleep. They appear to replay activities, inputs, and emotions perhaps hundreds of times during sleep; this repetition is key to learning.

There is a continuum of early- and late- people, "morning people" vs. "late people." Teenagers temporarily turn into "owls," and trying to teach them in the early day hours is problematic. Perhaps people should be grouped by "chronotypes" (sleep schedules) into distinct work and learning schedules.

I remain puzzled at how some rare brains can keep precise track of time, precisely estimate dimensions, do complex arithmetic, and remember everything they have ever read. Neural connections, to me, seem incapable of "photographic memory."

Teaching and Learning

Medina's key beliefs about learning include:

This book highly interesting. I was hoping for more information applicable to artificial intelligence. However, Medina explains a lot about us, especially about learning and teaching.

—John Schuyler, November 2015

Copyright © 2015 by John R. Schuyler. All rights reserved. Permission to copy with reproduction of this notice.