Another neurosciency book, I recently finished Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. Note that the book has an official website at brainrules.net that describes each of the rules and has some chapter excerpts, etc.
I was hoping the book would give me tips to learn better, etc., and there was some of that, but there was a lot more stuff along the lines of “this is interesting but not really helpful”. But, interesting for interestingness’s sake isn’t bad, right? Here’s some stuff I learned:
Exercise is really good for your brain – even fidgeting on the couch is better than not fidgeting. The gold standard for exercise (for the brain, anyway) is 30 mins of aerobic exercise 2-3 times/week. This has been shown to decrease Alzheimer’s by 60% and dementia by 50%, and it’s around as successful as medication for treating depression/anxiety.
The main function of oxygen is to absorb free electrons left over from digesting food to prevent them from damaging/killing cells.
We adapted to walk on two legs because it’s more energy efficient, leaving more energy left over for the brain. Our brain is 2% by volume but takes 20% of our body’s energy.
Learning new skills literally rewires the neurons in your brain. Some neurons are for surprisingly specific tasks – there is a neuron (at least in a “typical” patient) that activates only when you see a picture of Jennifer Aniston, and a different one for Halle Berry.
Your brain can’t really multitask in what you’re paying attention to – things are pretty much sequential. You can pay attention to something for around 10 minutes, then you need a break or to shift focus to something else.
People are naturally sleepy in the mid-afternoon, and a short nap can dramatically help performance. (a 26 minute nap improved a pilot’s performance by 34%) Sleep is really good for your brain. Falling behind on sleep puts you into sleep debt, which can severely impact performance.
Stress is a coping mechanism designed for short-term problems. (i.e. a cheetah is about to eat you) Being stressed long term makes you 3x more likely to catch a cold, etc. Some people, however, are very tolerant to stress, which seems to be a genetic trait. One of the defining characteristics of stress is that the stressor is out of your control, so taking control is a good strategy to reducing stress.
A workshop called Bringing Baby Home (designed by John Gottman who got a lot of shoutouts in For Better)) can help new parents to improve their relationship, which reduces their stress levels when the baby is born, which makes the baby develop in a less stressful environment, which makes them cry less and develop better emotional regulation, etc.
Pretty interesting stuff, and available for borrowing.