Book Review of Brain Rules: Making Our Brains Work Better without an Upgrade

I was always fascinated in how the brain works. When first helping others start to use computers in their daily life, the first explanation that I gave was that the CPU was the "brains" of the computer. The analogy worked for a while. Even as users questioned as to how the computer worked, there were other parallels related to the brain or it's concepts. There was the memory, the input (our senses) and the output (our reactions and communication). However, it was an accepted fact that although the computer is faster, the human brain is much more complex and capable than the computer's brain.
Computer engineers also looked to the brain for inspiration. They introduced concepts like short term and long term memory. They were able to make computers think less accurately through fuzzy logic. And they made computers smaller and faster. But they still realized that they were far away from being able to recreate how the brain works.
When I realized my son has a mild learning disability, I became even more interested in understanding how the brain works. Not only, was I interested because I wanted to know more. I now wanted to know what I can do with that knowledge.
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School does not try to explain in detail how the brain works. It's main purpose is to bring the science of the understanding of the brain back to the people who own one. Dr. John Medina tries to make that knowledge useful for the rest of us. While the realm of understanding the brain is dominated by scientists, there is no reason why we can't benefit from that understanding. Rather than just focusing on finally understanding how exactly the brain works, scientists should also try to help normal people use the knowledge the scientists already have so far to make their lives better. Better still, use that knowledge to make other people's lives better.
The author distills the key points of what we know about the brain and what we can do to take advantage of that. He lays down 12 rules which is printed on the back of the copy I have. Which means anybody can pick one, look at the rules and try to use them in their daily lives. They would give themselves a significant disservice because the book goes deep into each rule. Dr. Medina explains not only how the rule came about but how it could be used to benefit us. The language is easy to understand and peppered with popular references to help us draw associations with what we already know. The book even talks about associations being an important way the brain remembers and learn. You could say he was using what he knows about the brain to help us understand more about it.
Dr. Medina also proposes "radical" ideas. Ideas that don't seem to make sense at first. The ideas may seem radical but the purpose of the ideas are very familiar to us. He draws the line from what we want to achieve to how we know the brain works. Say you want to remember things quickly. By taking advantage of knowing how the brain works, we can build on that to come out with specific actions. These actions could really be seen as counter-intuitive and radical but they seem so because we have not been exposed to them before. For example, since I remember images better, I remember phone numbers by looking at the phone and drawing a line from each number to the next in my head. That way, I remember an image instead of a string of numbers. Once we do them regularly, they cease to become odd. It is nice to know why we do things in a certain way as opposed to do things that are normally done by everybody else. I now have better ideas what to do to help my son learn a bit better.
The 12 Brain Rules and the underlying concepts are very useful in the course of solving problems. Some rules touch on how we make the most of our brain and what need to do for us to think better and clearly. Other rules help us understand human interaction and how different people understand things differently. I personally am interested in figuring out how other people think, especially when they see things differently or disagree with me. Understanding how they think can give me an idea as to their reasons and motivations. That way, I know how to approach them or even modify my position to reach a possible solution.  
The book is not comprehensive simply because we don't know everything there is to know about our brains. However, it contains a practical and useful insight into how we think, how we can think better and generally use our brains even more. I highly recommend this book.

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