Book Assignment How I’ve come to find myself “stupid” For this assignment I read a book that you too have also read; Brain Rules. This explains my creative title, and gives those who haven’t read this book an insight as to what it contains. Because this book literally goes chapter by chapter, every chapter being a Brain rule, I have found that writing this assessment would be the simplest yet most effective way of summarizing the points, in this case “rules”, of the book. This also gives me a chance to reflect upon what I’ve learned, something that a simple sculpture or drawing wouldn’t do for me.
There are twelve rules all related to the science behind our brains; exercise, survival, wiring, attention, short-term memory, long-term memory, sleep, stress, sensory integration, vision, gender, and exploration. Brain rule number 1; exercise boosts brain power. In this first chapter, the author John Medina emphasizes the positive effects that exercise has on the human brain’s function and on the body in general. Before cars and advanced technology in general, Humans walked miles and miles a day (around 12) to carry out the necessities in order to survive.
John uses this information to back up the idea that our brains were made for walking, so we were meant to move. So theoretically, to improve thinking skills, one must be active. From a biological standpoint, exercise gets blood to the brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen, which the brain needs in order to soak up toxic electrons that our brain produces. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons in the brain connecting, which is the foundation for brain activity.
So exercise literally makes getting fuel (blood) to the brain more efficient. John described an interview with a man in his 90’s who was known for his physical wonders, like being able to swim attached to a line of tug boats (when he was younger of course). Compared to the likes of many others of his age, he seemed far more alert and mentally stable. He reacted to everything John said almost instantly, without hesitation. Typically, other people his age would find themselves in a state of mental decay, and have lost much of these abilities over time.
He implied that because this one man had been physically fit his entire life, he was more mentally active then his sedentary friends. In relation to disease, aerobic exercise just twice a week cuts ones risk of general dementia in half. It also cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent. Theoretically, long term exercise makes one more mentally and physically healthier. Brain rule number 2; the human brain evolved too. This chapter describes the evolution of the brain, how our brains ended up where they are today, and the biology that the human brain has.
The human brain has three parts; essentially all 3 parts are a separate brain. Humans started out with a lizard-like brain to keep us breathing (which is now the center of the human brain), then atop eventually developed a cat-like brain, and then the atop of that developed the most distinctive outer part of the brain known as the cortex, the human-like brain. Humans took over the earth by adapting to change itself. As John puts it, “We were forced from the trees to the savannah when climate swings disrupted our food supply”.
He then goes on to talk about the extraordinary affect that the evolution of upright movement (walking on two legs as apposed two all four) had on our ability to conjure up a complex brain. When we switched from “on all fours” to an upright posture, we used a fraction of the energy it took to walk on all fours. This freed up the energy to develop a complex brain. In this complex brain, developed some uniquely Human talents, like symbolic reasoning. John goes on to describe how this talent, symbolic reasoning, may have arisen from our need to understand one another’s intentions and motivations, allowing humans to coordinate within a group.
Brain rule number 3; every brain is wired differently. The title is pretty self-explanatory, John goes into detail about how this happens. He first addresses how the brain is wired, stating that what you do and what you learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like – it literally rewires it. For example, a violinist’s brain compared to others might have a more developed section in the brain that involves the use of the left hand. This supports the idea that various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people.
John goes on and describes that in general, no two brains store the same information in the same way in the same place. Many studies have been conducted in which involved mapping out the functions of the brain. Other experiments and/or treatments involve patients with a damaged brain. One specific case, involved a four year old girl with severe epilepsy. The doctor was there in order to remove some of her misbehaving brain cells, but in order to do so he has to make a map of the girl’s brain so that he knew where he had to do the surgery.
While hovering over the girl with her brain open and exposed, the doctor uses a metal prong that emits electrical currents that is called a cortical stimulator. If one were to come in contact with such a tool, they would only feel a tingly sensation. The doctor touches this wand to the girl’s brain and then asks her, “do you feel anything? ” she would respond “somebody just touched my hand! ” and then he would place a slip of paper on that specific region of her brain with “hand” written on it. This procedure has to be done with every patient, solely because of the basic fact that every brain is wired differently.
I saying this, john also implies that because every brain is wired differently, there are a great number of ways of being intelligent in respect to one individual, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests. Brain rule number 4; we don’t pay attention to boring things. John medina, as well as being a writer, is also a teacher. Many points in this book are in retrospect to the teaching environment, some may be directly derived from his experience in teaching. This chapter for instance, describes the typical attention span to different subjects, something anyone with adequate intelligence would say is derived from a classroom.
First point he makes; multitasking is a myth. Human brains are not known to be able to retain attention to more than one thing. For instance; driving while talking on the cell phone. One study found that doing this is the equivalent of drunk driving, in some cases, even worse than drunk driving. He implies that what we consider multitasking is not multitasking at all, like being able to have multiple windows open on a computer. He states that we don’t apply ourselves to more than one window at a time, but we do the exact opposite; apply ourselves to one window at a time, never at the same time.
He goes on to describe brain function in regards to attention, stating that Humans are batter at seeing patterns and abstracting the meaning of an event rather than humans are at recording detail. He states that there is a common misconception about how the brain remembers things. Many people think it’s like a recorder, like myself before I read this book, and that humans simply have to find the button to press. This is not the case at all, proof being if this was the case nobody would forget the material, but forgetting is all about being human.
John states that emotional arousal helps the brain learn, which makes sense if you think about traumatic events people claim they will never forget. Being the teacher that John is, he also has recognized that the attention span of a classroom environment is about 10 minutes, but you can grab their attention back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion. I found this to make a lot of sense because you can’t just rely of one topic to teach an hourly class, you have to keep It interesting and different in order to retain attention. Brain rule number 5; repeat to remember.
This is the only chapter where I found myself able to relate to (besides all of the human aspects that relate to everyone). I find that the concept of repeat to remember is a big part of my learning life, which is apparently a good thing because it works. John opens up this chapter by giving some background on the brains memory systems, stating that we have many memory systems, one important type follows four stages of processing; encoding, storing, retrieving, and forgetting. This is like the path that a memory follows in one’s brain. The encoding and storage part is quite complex.
When information enters the brain, it is split into fragments that are sent to different regions of the cortex for storage. I thought that this chapter was also interesting because of these specific processes that take place in order for a memory to form. Especially the idea of retrieving a memory, which is done by collecting all of the fragments from a memory and forming them into a memorable event. Also I found the idea that you have a greater chance of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put the memory into your brain very intriguing.
I found this to be very contradictive to the school system of homework because we are expected to remember processes that we do outside of school, in school, which is in direct contradiction with the previous statement. Brain rule number 6; remember to repeat. This chapter, and the chapter prior are very much so related. The only difference being what kind of memory is being discussed. In the previous chapter, it was short-term memory. In this chapter, its long-term memory. These chapters helped a lot with my understanding of how to remember things.
I learned that there is a fragile state in the beginning of the formation of a memory in which most are forgotten. But for those memories that pass this stage, they only strengthen with time. John talked about the case of an interesting man edited as H. M. who had his hippocampus surgically removed, along with the ability to encode new information. H. M. however still had some of his long term memories before the hippocampus was removed, up until about 11 years before his surgery, then it is all blank.
John states that long-term memories are formed in a two way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex, which he states, with H. M. ’s case in mind, could takes years, something like 11 years or so. This explains why H. M. can recall events up until that point in his life. Another interesting fact that john states is that our brains only give us an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one. It is strange to think that we don’t have a true view of reality.
To counter this, John suggests that to make the memories more reliable, you must incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals. Brain rule number 7; sleep well, think well. This chapter was probably the most contradicting with my own personal lifestyle, mostly because I sometimes like to consider myself nocturnal. I found it interesting, however, the idea of day and night in terms of our bodies. The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake and cells and chemicals that try to get you to sleep.
He also explains an interesting theory as to what sleep actually does for the mind. He believes that sleep isn’t for restoring energy, but for allowing the mind to process what was learned during that day in an environment in which it allows it to do so, such as a sleeping environment. My favorite part of this chapter however is the part that describes the need for an afternoon nap. At this point, the chemicals in which are at tension with each other come to a stalemate right around 3 in the afternoon. This is also known as the “3 in the afternoon” feeling.
This feeling is “biologically universal” as john comes to describe it, and is the reasoning behind his napping theory. I knew that a lack of sleep was bad, but I didn’t know how bad. John goes on to describe the affects that lack of sleep has on the human body such as; effects on attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity. All of these are vital for a proper mind set in order to learn, and gives me personally another excuse to get some sleep.
Brain rule 8; stressed brains don’t learn the same way. Something that I’ve never really had a problem with is stress, but it was interesting to find out the negative long-term effects that stress has on the mind and body. In fact, stress can only be negative when it is recurring and common to an individual. John explains that stress is a defense mechanism built for a short term cause, but like stated in the previous sentence; stress can be very harmful when it’s recurring and common. This is why stress over time can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over a situation, and that you are helpless. I know that I have time and time again found myself in this type of situation at work. I work at Steak N Shake, and sometimes we get extremely busy to the point of where there is a point that no matter what we do it will not help the situation, and you stand there helpless. I hate it when this happens, so I find it understandable when John talks about the worst kind of stress being the helpless kind.
John also talks about the negative effects that stress has on society compared to an individual. For example, what I just talked about; my instances at work. It makes you not want to work, in essence, lowers my productivity level, which could be seen as a negative effect. Stress at home, like between parents can lower a student productivity level in school, even when the stress is not about the student. I hate stress, and usually do everything I can to say away from it. Staying positive is exactly what Mr. Medina is going for, and I agree with him a hundred percent.
Brain rule number 9; stimulate more of the senses. This chapter is devoted to the idea that memories last longer if at the time of conception, more than one of the five senses are used to encode an event in our brains. Mr. Medina puts it this way; our senses evolved to work together, vision influencing hearing for example, which means that we learn best when we stimulate several senses at once. He also states that the brain seems to rely partly on past experience in deciding how to combine electrical signals sent to the brain, so two people can perceive the same event very differently.
The last idea that he goes on to describe in full detail is the ability that our sense of smell has to recall memories. I know that every time I use tea tree shampoo ill remember the night I saw I am Legend in theaters, it scared the hell out of me first time I saw it. Right after I saw the movie, I took a shower, and I used the tea tree shampoo. I’ll remember that movie every time I use the stuff. Brain rule number 10; vision trumps all other senses. This chapter was especially appealing to me because I consider myself a visual learner and an overall visual person in general.
Its devoted to the idea that because of the amount of effort that the brain has to put forth, just so we can have a clear image in our heads of what is going on around us makes it a sense that makes all other senses look wimpy. Vision takes up half of our brains resources. I found it most intriguing the idea that what we see is what our brain tells us we see, so it’s not 100 percent accurate. This made me think of all the people who have claimed to see a UFO or an act of God; were they telling the truth? And if they were, was it a mind hallucination or an actual perception of what was going on outside of their heads?
I thought it was interesting to think about. John goes on to talk about how images are recorded through our eyes and how it travels to the mind. The last point he makes made me feel very comfortable about my learning apparatus when I first read it, he states that we learn better through pictures, not through written or spoken word. Makes sense what you think of the famous saying that a picture says a thousand words, and that they are more efficient. Brain rule number 11; male and female brains are different. This chapter goes into descriptive detail about gender in the genetic, neuroanatomical, and behavioral areas.
I thought it was interesting that fact that John came out and said that he doesn’t look forward to talking about this subject, because a majority of it would be perceived as being sexist, or bias. Genetically, obviously the letter Y is the major factor between a girl and a boy. It’s the chromosome that a male has. Neuroanatomicaly, Males like to use the right side of the brain which is more so related to perceiving things in a “general” fashion. Females use the left side of the brain which is more so related to perceiving things in a more “detailed” fashion.
Behaviorally, because of the previous idea, it is theorized that the stereotype that women are more emotion is not the case, and that because they perceive things with more detail, they simply have more to react to, a. k. a. more emotions. Brain rule number 12; we are powerful and natural explorers. The last rule, exhibits the most important idea according to Mr. Medina, the idea that we should advocate curiosity in our society, and not shoot it down. According to Mr. Medina and people alike, curiosity is the foundation of learning, and the result of the human tendency of exploration.
After I read this it immediately hit me, that is, the importance of curiosity in a healthy learning environment. Curiosity is the distinct will to try something new, and see what this something does in respect to other things, which makes it a very suitable start for learning. John talks about the human tendency for exploration, and how since we were born, this exploration program has been imbedded in our DNA. It makes a lot of sense to advocate curiosity, because otherwise how do we know what we want to do, or what we don’t want to do. I personally don’t read all that often, not often at all really.
But when I do it almost always serves to do some good, weather that good is the expansion of my creativity, or simply just to practice learning. I found that with this book, I actually liked it. It answered a lot of questions that I had conjured up over time about why we do things and how we do them. I liked this book most of all because I found it to have a lot of valuable information I can use in the classroom, and at college. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone who finds themselves questioning their everyday practices.
This book gives those people, like me, a reason to argue that the current education systems and lifestyles that we fall under are in considerable contradiction with the reasons they were set up in the first place. I just wanted to thank you Mr. Hancock for exposing this book to me, and letting me borrow it. I now feel less timid in the realm of books, and I truly think this report has changed my thoughts about reading in general, which is why I think I deserve an adequate grade. No matter what grade I receive on this paper, I believed that I passed in my own way, and succeeded in doing exactly what I think was intended. I learned.