I learned a great deal reading John Medina’s Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.
Here are some of my notes from the book:
Exercise boosts brain power
- Exercisers outperform couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so-called fluid-intelligence tasks. These tasks test the ability to reason quickly and think abstractly, improvising off previously learned material in order to solve a new problem. Essentially, exercise improves a whole host of abilities prized in the classroom and at work.
- They consistently found that when couch potatoes are enrolled in an aerobic exercise program, all kinds of mental abilities begin to come back online. Positive results were observed after as little as four months of activity… In the laboratory, the gold standard appears to be aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at a clip, two or three times a week. Add a strengthening regimen and you get even more cognitive benefit.
- Your lifetime risk for general dementia is literally cut in half if you participate in leisure-time physical activity.
You can’t multitask
- To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.
Get your sleep
- The bottom line is that sleep loss means mind loss. Sleep loss cripples thinking, in just about every way you can measure thinking. Sleep loss hurts attention, executive function, immediate memory, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning ability, general math knowledge. Eventually, sleep loss affects manual dexterity, including fine motor control… and even gross motor movements, such as the ability to walk on a treadmill. When you look at all of the data combined, a consistency emerges: Sleep is rather intimately involved in learning. It is observable with large amounts of sleep; it is observable with small amounts of sleep; it is observable all the time.
- Take an A student used to scoring in the top 10 percent of virtually anything she does. One study showed that if she gets just under seven hours of sleep on weekdays, and about 40 minutes more on weekends, she will begin to score in the bottom 9 percent of non-sleep-deprived individuals.
- …if healthy 30-year-olds are sleep-deprived for six days (averaging, in this study, about four hours of sleep per night), parts of their body chemistry soon revert to that of a 60-year-old. And if they are allowed to recover, it will take them almost a week to get back to their 30-year-old systems.
- “What other management strategy will improve people’s performance 34 percent in just 26 minutes?” says Mark Rosekind, the NASA scientist who conducted that eye-opening research on naps and pilot performance.
What creates stress?
- Business professionals have spent a long time studying what types of stress make people less productive and, not surprisingly, have arrived at the same conclusion that Marty Seligman’s German shepherds did: Control is critical. The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two malignant facts: a) a great deal is expected of you and b) you have no control over whether you will perform well.
How to improve your memory
- Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information if you want to retrieve it later. Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately if you want the retrieval to be of higher quality. Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately, and in fixed, spaced intervals, if you want the retrieval to be the most vivid it can be. Learning occurs best when new information is incorporated gradually into the memory store rather than when it is jammed in all at once.
- Memory is enhanced by creating associations between concepts. This experiment has been done hundreds of times, always achieving the same result:Words presented in a logically organized, hierarchical structure are much better remembered than words placed randomly—typically 40 percent better.
- “[Experts’] knowledge is not simply a list of facts and formulas that are relevant to their domain; instead, their knowledge is organized around core concepts or ‘big ideas’ that guide their thinking about their domains.” Whether you are a waiter or a brain scientist, if you want to get the particulars correct, don’t start with details. Start with the key ideas and, in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions.
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