Brain Rules: A Brief Note

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Updated: June 5


#1 exercise boosts brain power

hunter-gatherer society

>> brain is built for walking (12 miles/day) | Are we adapting to sedentary life? Maybe not yet.

“exercisers outperform in couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, even so-called fluid intelligence task.”

>>to improve thinking skill: move


to depression & anxiety: exercise regulates the release of serotonin (happiness), dopamine (motivation )& norepinephrine (wakefulness).


exercise brings in glucose (for energy) and oxygen (to balance toxic electrons)

>> stimulate protein that keeps neurons connecting


#2 human brain evolves

we have three brains:

1. lizard brain: breathing, heart rate, sleeping, walking

2. mammalian brain: fighting, feeding, fleeing, reproductive

amygdala: creation of emotions and memories

hippocampus: conversion of short to long-term memories

thalamus: center of senses

3. human brain: highly specialized regions for speech, vision, memory


human different from gorillas: symbolic reasoning >> language >> cooperation in a group


environmental changes (trees to savannah) >> disrupts food supply >> bipedalism (save energy) & brain development (smarter, not stronger)


#3 every brain is wired differently

what we do and learn physically changes the brain wiring system


different regions develop at different rates in different people

people don’t store information the same way, same place


intelligence is a loose concept (not only IQ)

(Frames of Mind, Gardner): verbal/linguistic, musical/rhythmic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal (7 types)

#4 we don’t pay attention to boring things

brain cannot multitask


we are better at learning pattern and meaning of events than detail


culture matters to attention

Ex: Asian focus on context & relationship b/w foregrounds and backgrounds; American focus on focal objects

emotional arousal helps brain learn


communication problem: too much information without connecting the dots


#5 repeat to remember

memory system: encoding, storing, retrieving, forgetting


information into your brain splits to different pieces and stored different storage in the cortex


the more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moment, the stronger it will be


remember with multi-sense: reproduce the environment in which you remember, you will retrieve it better


#6 remember to repeat

to turn short- to long-term memory: absorb new information and repeat it in timed intervals


post-learning retrieval system

short-term: library model (specific account of a given memory)

long-term: Sherlock Holmes model (replying on partial fragments and guesswork


#7 sleep well, think well

why we sleep & awake? because of cells & chemicals within your brain balance each other


active during rest: the neurons show vigorous activities within the brain when we sleep, maybe replaying what we learnt that day

afternoon nap is universal


no sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, qualitative skills, logical reasoning, motor dexterity.


#8 stressed brains learn differently

stress leads to adrenaline & cortisol increasing


good stress (immediate, yet temporary): body’s response to serious danger like a tiger

bad stress (chronic) - learned helplessness: inescapability & cognitive collapse

>> dangerously deregulates the system built to only immediate responses


stress has no unique psychological signals that you’re stressed (same as pleasure)

>> 3 conditions to find stress

1. aroused psychological response measured by an outsider

2. stressor is perceived as aversive (if you could repeat the experience, would you?)

3. the loss of control on the stress


stress causes severe impacts on children’s ability to learn and employees’ productivity at work


#9 stimulate more of the senses

information goes into brain >> translates to electrical signals (sight, sound, etc.) >> disperses to many parts of the brain >> reconstructs as the event is perceived


brain combines signals and reconstructs events partly based on past experience >> people perceive the same event differently


learn better with more senses: many practical applications in schools and businesses

Multimedia principle: learn better from words and pictures

Temporal continuity principle: learn better when corresponding words and pictures are present simultaneously

Spatial continually principle: learn better when corresponding words and pictures are present near each other

Coherence principle: learn better when extraneous material is excluded

Modality principle: learn better from animation and narration



#10 vision trumps all other senses

vision takes ½ of brain’s resources

Ex: the nose smells what the eyes see


visual information is split and analyzed by different areas (some register motion, some color, some line, etc.)


We remember best through pictures, not written and spoken words.


#11 male and female brains are different

X chromosome that males have one in females have two is important to manufacturing brain


women are genetically more complex because active X chromosomes is a mix of mom's and dad's while men’s X chromosomes all come from mom.

Y chromosome carries less than 100 genes while X chromosome carries about 1500 genes


Males and females respond differently to acute stress:

women activate left hemisphere amygdala (emotion detail)

men activate right hemisphere amygdala (gist)


#12 We are powerful and natural explorers

learning model: observation, hypothesis, experiment and conclusion


some parts of adult brains stay as malleable as baby’s >> we can continue learning


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Link: Brain Rules in Book Collection