On Brain Rules

I have recently finished reading Brain Rules – 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. This book was recommended to me by my mentor. Every now and then, you pick up a book that truly changes the way you think and perceive – and Brain Rules does exactly that.

As the title indicates, John presents in this book a series of principles/rules that our brains are governed by:

1- Exercise boosts brain power

2- The human brain evolved, too.

3- Every brain is wired differently.

4- We don’t pay attention to boring things.

5- Repeat to remember. (Short-term memory)

6- Remember to repeat. (Long-term memory)

7- Sleep well, think well.

8- Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.

9- Stimulate more of the senses.

10- Vision trumps all other senses.

11- Male and female brains are different.

12- We are powerful and natural explorers.

This book is intentionally not prescriptive in nature, however the principles and learnings presented have a number of practical implications and/or applications in all settings whether personal or professional. What sets this book apart  is the thoroughness of the research behind the finding. As John mentions: “…the supporting research for each of my points must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal and then successfully replicated. May studies have been replicated dozens of times.”  A highly recommended read!

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “To improve your thinking skills, move.”

2- “Symbolic reasoning is a uniquely human talent. It may have arisen from our need to understand one another’s intentions and motivations, allowing us to coordinate within a group.”

3- “So we have the ability to detect a new stimulus, the ability to turn toward it, and the ability o decide what to do based on its nature…Four have considerable practical potential: emotions, meaning, multitasking, and timing…Emotions get our attention…Meaning before details…The brain cannot multitask…The brain needs a break.”

4- “Kandel showed that when people learn something, the wiring in their brains changes. He demonstrated that acquiring even simple pieces of information involves the physical alteration of the structure of the neurons participating in the process.”

5- “The brain acts like a muscle: the more activity you do, the larger and more complex it can become. Whether that leads to more intelligence is another issue, but one fact is indisputable: what you do in life physically changes what your brain looks like. You can wire and rewire yourself with the simple choice of which musical instrument – or professional sport – you play.”

6- “The brain is a sequential processor, unable to pay attention to two things at the same time. Businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes.”

7- “The more elaborately we encode information at the moment of learning, the stronger the memory.”

8- “A memory trace appears to be stored in the same parts of the brain that perceived and processed the initial input.”

9- “Retrieval may best be improved by replicating the conditions surrounding the initial encoding.”

10- “The brain has many types of memory systems. One type follows four stages of processing: encoding, storing, retrieving, and forgetting.”

11- “The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.”

12- “The brains is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake. The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when you’re asleep – perhaps replaying what you learned that day.”

13- “Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem – you are helpless.”

14- “1) Multimedia Principle: Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. 2) Temporal contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively. 3) Spatial contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to each other rather than far from each on the page or screen. 4) Coherence principle: Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included. 5) Modality principle: Students learn better from animations and narration than from animation and on-screen text.”

15- “What we see is only what our brain tells us we see, and it’s not 100 percent accurate.”

16- “1) Emotions are useful. They make the brain pay attention. 2) Men and women process certain emotions differently. 3) The differences are a product of complex interactions between nature and nurture.”

17- “Babies are the model of how we learn – not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion…We can recognize and imitate behavior because of  “mirror neurons” scattered across the brain.”


Omar Halabieh


Brain Rules

Brain Rules


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