Sunday, June 1, 2008

Brain Rules!

Dr John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist who is focused on the genes involved in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorders, wrote a book called, "Brain Rules".

In his book he writes how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule—what scientists know for sure about how our brains work—and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives. I've just ordered the book as I think it is going to make the world of difference to our homeschool.

The rules are:

  • EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.

  • SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.

  • WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.

  • ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.

  • SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.

  • LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.

  • SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.

  • STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way.

  • SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.

  • VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.

  • GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.

  • EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

After yesterday I can attest to rule number 7. I was so tired yesterday that I couldn't remember a thing.

What struck me when I was watching the slide presentation below was how he lists classrooms as perfect examples of "anti-brain" environments today. In fact, he lists the classroom and the office cubicle as being the greatest "anti-brain" environments today. He even touches on why the current trend to reduce physical activity in the schools is bad for cognition. I feel vindicated in my homeschool approach. LOL. I have the kids cycle, run or scoot round the block when I see them beginning to become squirrelly, or when I've finished one block of teaching. We also learn facts while jumping, running, walking, clapping etc.. I just did things that worked for us, I didn't realize there was science behind it.

A summary of the above, excellent slide presentation:

    Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power
  • Our brains were built for walking/moving

  • To improve our thinking skills, move!

  • Exercise brings blood to the brain, bringing glucose and oxygen,

  • Aerobic exercise 2x/week halves the risk of general dementia, reduces risk of Alzheimer's by 60%

  • Exercise is just about the best thing you can do for yourself says Dr Medina

  • Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things
  • No multitasking. When it comes to attention, only one thing at a time

  • We're better at seeing patterns, abstracting meaning than recording details

  • Tapping people's emotions helps them learn

  • People start to fade after 10 min. Get them back by telling stories, examples and targeting their emotions

  • Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses
  • Vision is our dominant sense, using half our brain's resources

  • We learn best by through pictures compared to text/spoken word

  • Try to communicate more with pictures

  • Toss your current Powerpoint slides

In his video on rule #10 he talks about something that indicates that my uncharitable thoughts about wine aficionados might be true. He talks about a study where researchers went to the University of Bordeaux and conducted a test amongst 54 so called experts. They dropped odorless, colorless, red dye into white wine. When the "winies" tested the "red" wine, they all used language that they would normally use for red, not white wine. I've long thought that wine testers were bogus poseurs, this just confirms it for me. LOL.

AtGoogle Talks has a 52min lecture by Dr Medina. It's worth watching.

You can subscribe to John Medina's newsletter here.


christinemm said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog post today. I just left a comment on my own blog to address something you said.

I laughed when I read what you wrote about the wine tasters. When I hear them talk i.e. on a food TV show I say "are they nuts" I don't taste any of those tastes in wine. I can pick out a few things like blackberry or oak or foot odor but I don't get some of the same, exotic adjectives that they get. LOL.

MLD said...

It just goes to show that we really are the best teachers for our children. We know them. We have an idea of how their brains work. And that instinct should never be ignored.

Dawn said...

I stumbled across Medina's idea just a couple of months ago. Definitely something more homeschoolers should takes a look at.

April said...

Thanks for this review. The book sounds fascinating. I can't wait to read it.

sgaissert said...

Thank you for the list of "brain rules." The vision rule reminded me of my mother, who suffered from macular degeneration for many years before her death. I watched her mental faculties slowly diminish along with her eyesight and always believed that the two losses were related.

Now I'm going to go out and get some exercise!