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Brain Rules


Brain Rules
by John Medina

Brain Rules is a must-read for anyone who espouses the alphaeight way of thinking. After all, focusing on how to do things with our Mind and why doing things that way works, rather than simply telling people what to do, is the institute’s training philosophy. John Medina’s 12 “rules” add further explanation to the all-important how and why.

Medina is a molecular biologist with an obvious fascination for brain science. He has written a book for everyman and everywoman in that Brain Rules reads like a fireside chat with a smart and caring uncle, who just happens to have a strong sense of humour. There are few really technical words over which to stumble and Medina’s sense of fun and interest in humanity shine through. Or as USA Today put it, “Words leap off the page”.

The 12 brain rules are really “twelve things we know about the brain” according to the introduction and the author then proceeds to illustrate each, often with observations of his children’s behaviour, some historical context about brain development, the results of research by experts, and usually an apparently outlandish suggestion.

One such suggestion, that schools would be more effective if students did their work on treadmills rather than at desks, and so would workers if they had the same facility in their cubicles, comes towards the end of the first of the twelve chapters – Rule #1 Exercise.

The historical background, which recurs through the book, is that man was forced to come down from the African trees (where his ancestors had survived for millions of years) only around 3,000,000 years ago when the rainforest which covered most of the earth at the time, was lost to climate change.

It is estimated that there were only around 2,000 of our species initially and the environment they encountered on the ground was anything but friendly. They had to “wise up” or perish. In fact, they travelled in search of food, shelter and a better place to live. These early ancestors moved around 12 miles per day as they migrated to distant parts of the world. As they did so they became smarter, developing better ways to avoid becoming prey.

So Medina concludes that man’s brain evolved thinking on the move – not sitting at a desk. We all know that exercise does help us operate at a sharper mental level, but we might not have thought of it in these terms before.

Then the researchers kick in with the observable science that the ability to age well is tied to the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle.

So the journey continues through the effect of sleep, stress and curiosity on brain function, the differences between the brains of men and women (read it and weep guys!), the way memory works and many other gems.

This book is peppered with short observations – the man who can read two pages of a book at once, one with each eye is memorable – scientific conclusions and, above all, information. How our Brain, and thus our Mind, works should be a subject of vital interest to everyone.

Brain Rules should be read in every school room and office – while on a treadmill of course…