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Brain Rules by John Medina - 3 Big Ideas

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

Learn the rules of the brain -- how to keep it happy, healthy, and shiny -- in this book by a hilarious developmental molecular biologist, John Medina.

Quick Intro

This book is 304 pages paperback and 8 hours audible.

The book is described on Amazon as follows,

"Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know—like the need for physical activity to get your brain working its best.

How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget—and so important to repeat new knowledge? Is it true that men and women have different brains?

In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in 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.

Medina’s fascinating stories and infectious sense of humor breathe life into brain science. You’ll learn why Michael Jordan was no good at baseball. You’ll peer over a surgeon’s shoulder as he proves that most of us have a Jennifer Aniston neuron. Meet a boy who has an amazing memory for music but can’t tie his own shoes.

You will discover how:

Every brain is wired differently Exercise improves cognition We are designed to never stop learning and exploring Memories are volatile Sleep is powerfully linked with the ability to learn Vision trumps all of the other senses Stress changes the way we learn In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works—and how to get the most out of it."

So... What are three things we can use from this book?

3 Things You Can Use

1. Exercise

John Medina was actually the first person to say that exercise was good for you.

No, not really. Everyone says that exercise is good for you. But if you really knew all of the reasons, I'd reckon you to be 10x more likely to actually get up and start exercising right after our show.

Medina describes the benefits of exercise as follows:

Compared to couch potatoes, exercisers outperform them in:

  • Long-term memory

  • Reasoning

  • Attention

  • Problem Solving

  • Fluid intelligence

  • Thinking quickly

  • Abstract reasoning

Medina also explains why this all happens:

Exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, which reduces brain-bound free radicals. One of the most interesting findings of the past few decades is that an increase in oxygen is always accompanied by an uptick in mental sharpness.Exercise acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.

And it's not just your cognition that exercise helps. Exercise benefits include:

  • Making muscles and bones stronger

  • Improving strength and balance

  • Regulating appetite

  • Reduces risk of more than 12 types of cancer

  • Improve immune system

  • Buffers against the toxic effects of stress.

So get that blood pumping and become a super-human version of yourself!

2. Sleep

John Medina was actually the first person to say that sleep was good for you.

No, not really. Everyone says that sleep is good for you. But if you really knew all of the reasons, I'd reckon you to be 10x more likely to actually lay down and start sleeping right after our show.

Sleep deprivation is what we should fear the most. Our brain slowly deflates, metaphorically, the more sleep debt we accumulate. Sleep deprivation harms our:

  • Attention

  • Executive Function

  • Immediate Memory

  • Working Memory

  • Mood

  • Quantitative Skills

  • Logical Reasoning Ability

  • General Math Knowledge

  • And Eventually, Manual Dexterity

Lack of sleep not only affects our cognition, but it functions to:

  • Decrease our food utilization by 1/3

  • Increase our stress hormone production in a deregulated manor

  • And if kept up, it increases the aging process.

Sleep debt increases in a linear pattern. You accumulate it. But you can also sleep enough to get it back to normal.

One funky part of all this is that we don't actually know how much you need -- because everyone is different - but you can probably gauge for yourself whether you need more sleep or not.

So ditch the nightly TV tonight and get some sleep instead!

p.s. Naps are good for you.

3. Music

One of the more interesting chapters in the book, Medina introduces music and answers questions relating to how music can make us smarter and possibly increase productivity.

The actual subtitle of the chapter is: Rule #10 Study or Listen to Boost Cognition

First he cites some research of studying music, as in learning an instrument. Research shows that formal music training boosts:

  • Spacial temporal skills

  • Vocabulary

  • Picking out sounds in a noisy environment

  • Working Memory

  • Sensory Motor Skills

And it also helps to improve social skills, in the following ways:

  • Increasing Social Cognition

  • Detecting Emotional cues in speech

  • Improving empathy and other prosocial behaviors.

And as for listening, music can be shown to help people as well, through what's called music therapy. Music therapy can help patients work through certain brain ailments, like stroke. And can help with parkinson's treatment as well, using rhythm to help with the movement.

This has implications to the health and happiness factors that music can provide to persons of all ages. So get out there, learn an instrument and immerse yourself in a world of music.

One caveat though, as Medina points out in a previous chapter on attention, because multitasking is a fallacy. know that listening to music while you do your work is actually distracting and keeping you from being your most focused and thoughtful.


Do you want to improve yourself in nearly every way possible? Get in the habit of doing some aerobic exercise and become a super you.

Want to stay leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in this sleep-deprived world? Easy! Earplugs, sleep mask, and nighty night.

Finally, it's not all fun and games if you want to be happy and healthy -- just kidding, it is! Crank up the jams, when you're not busy, and finally realize your dream of playing the bongos, knowing that you are improving your abilities exponentially.

I've read John Medina before. I read his book, Brain Rules for Baby a month or two before Maddi was born, and I loved the chance to listen to him again. He is a very funny writer who can still manage to tie in all of the science and helpful information.

I liked this book. Though I would say that I read it to learn about the brain and how to keep it healthy and optimally functioning -- and he certainly delivers on that -- but at the end of each chapter he gives suggestions to schools and offices for how to take advantage of the principles that he was just discussing. Which I'm sure is helpful to somebody... but not me.

But anyway, if you are interested in this book go get it. It includes, as partially mentioned in the intro, chapters on:

 Stress Brain Wiring Attention Memory Sensory Integration Vision Exploration... and a provocative chapter on the differences of the brains of males and females.

Go get it below!

Also, what do you do to keep your brain in shape?

Thanks for reading! We'll see you next week!

Want to Read it?

Audible Free Trial (get this book for free!)

Brain Rules (Audible Version)

 Brain Rules (Physical Copy)

(disclosure: ^^^ these links give me a commission -- at no extra cost to you! They just give me a little bump if you decide to use them. Thank you!)


Punching Sounds (in video) by: Mike Koenig

Reading Photo at end of video by: Marketa

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