Much of what we think we know about the brain is…wrong


BrainRules-Paperback_NYT-redband.inddWarning! The following information may be hazardous to your professional health. Read with care.

“Cutting off physical exercise—the very activity most likely to promote cognitive performance—to do better on a test score is like trying to gain weight by starving yourself.” (p. 25)

“Businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes.” (p.93)

“If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom.” (p. 5)

These are three of many favorite quotes from John Medina’s fascinating book, Brain Rules — 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Much more than just another education tome or flavor-of-the-month theory, Medina’s work is solidly research based. His 12 rules focus on what we know about how the brain works—exercise, survival, attention, short and long-term memory, stress, sleep, and several other key topics. In every instance, Medina presents the science behind the concept and then offers ideas for investigating how the rule might apply to school and work.

His examples are excellent and compelling—taking advantage of exercise to stimulate learning, more walking and movement throughout the day; eliminating stressful environments so children can learn more productively, and; remembering that we (all of us) do not pay attention to boring things. Yes, these do sound like common sense, but you will be surprised about the compelling school and work connections.

A molecular biologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, Medina was a keynote speaker at a recent conference I attended. I don’t know many molecular biologists, but he certainly has to be one of the funniest ones around!

While I love the book, you may want to watch the videos first, because as Medina says, “vision trumps all others senses.” The videos are short, focused, funny, and very, very thoughtful. I recommend them. In fact, I suggest you substitute them for reruns of Big Bang Theory or Friends and watch these videos with your family.

You will be glad you did.



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One Response to “Much of what we think we know about the brain is…wrong”

  1. Christian Elkington Says:

    Hi Ed! Great, another book to read! Seriously, these thoughts are not only important for our students, but for the environments where we want our staff to also flourish! It is most important that as educators and leaders that we also use this advice and learning to support our staffs!

    I watched the videos and look forward to sharing them and reading the book! Thanks!

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