Melvin's digital garden

Brain Rules


Our brains were build for walking — 12 miles a day

Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connections

Aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent.


Lizard brain: brain stem, regulated breathing, heart rate, sleeping, and waking Cat brain: Paleomammalian brain, survival instincts Human brain: cortex, highly specialized sections for vision, memory, etc

We took over the Earth by adapting to change itself after we were forced from the trees to the savannah when climate swings disrupted our food supply

Going from four legs to tw freed up energy to develop a complex brain

Symbolic reasoning is a uniquely human talent. It may have arisen from our need to understand one another’s intentions and motivations, allowing us to coordinate withing a group.


What you do and learn in life physically rewires your brain.

Different regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people

No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.

We have a great number of ways of being intelligent.


Attention affected by: memory, interest, and awareness

Emotional arousal helps the brain learn

Meaning before detail

The brain cannot multitask

Audience check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion (hooks).

Hooks should

  • trigger an emotion
  • relevant
  • go between modules

Short-term memory

Declarative memory: any conscious memory system that is altered when the hippocampus and various surrounding regions become damages

Memory is stored all over the brain (blender analogy). Binding problem - how does the brain provide the illusion of continuity.

Automatic processing vs effortful processing

The more elaborately we encode information at the moment of learning, the stronger the memory.

Introductions are everything! A memory trace appears to be stored in the same parts of the brain that perceived and processed the initial input.

Retrieval may best be improved by replicating the conditions surround the initial encoding

Improve learning by liberal use of relevant real-world examples embedded in the information, constantly peppering main learning points with meaningful experiences.

Examples work by taking advantage of the brain’s natural predilection for pattern matching. Information is more readily processed if it can be immediately associated with information already present in the learner’s brain.

Providing examples is the cognitive equivalent of adding more handles to the door.

Long-term memory

Types of working memory: auditory, visual-spatial, central executive, and episodic buffer

Types of long term memory: semantic and episodic which includes autobiographical

Evidence suggests that when long term memory are retrieved they revert to their previously labile, unstable nature.

Long term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex — which can take years.

Our brains gives us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one.

The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.


Brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and those that try to keep you awake.

During sleep, neurons show rhythmical activity that replay what you learned during the day.

People vary in how much sleep they need and when they prefer to get it, but the biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal.

Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.


The fight or flight response is built for an immediate threat. Chronic stress deregulates a system built only to deal with short-term responses.

Under chronic stress, adrenaline creates scars in your blood vessel that can cause a heart attack or stroke, and cortisol damages the cells of the hippocampus, crippling your ability to learn and remember

Indivisually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem — you are helpless.

Emotional stress has huge impacts across society, on children’s ability to learn in school and on employees’ productivity at work.

Sensory integration

Process of sensing: sensation, routing, and perception

Learning is enhanced

  • by using words and pictures than from words along (multimedia principle)
  • when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively (temporal contiguity)
  • when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to each other rather than far apart (spatial contiguity)
  • when extraneous material is excluded rather than included (coherence principle)
  • when using animation and narration than animation and on-screen text (modality principle)

The brain relies partly on past experience in deciding how to combine sensory signals, so two people can perceived the same event very differently.

Our senses evolved to work together, which means we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once.

Smells have an unusual power to bring back memories, maybe because smell signals bypass the thalamus and head straight to their destinations, which include that supervisor of emotions known as the amygdala.


Vision is our most dominant sense, talking up half of our brain’s resources

What we see is what our brain tells us we see, and it’s not 100 percent accurate

The retina assembled photons into little movie-like streams of information. The visual cortex processes these streams. Finally we combine that information back together so we can see.

We learn and remember best through pictures, no through written or spoken words. The picture superiority effect.


Males can synthesize serotonin about 52 percent faster than females. The amygdala is larger in men than in women.

In a stressful situation, men tend to remember the gist, while women remember the details.

Women recall more emotional autobiographical events, more rapidly and with greater intensity, than men do.

Under stress, women tend to focus on nurturing their offspring (tend and befriend), while men tend to withdraw.

Girls use their sophisticated verbal talents to cement their relationship. Commotion seems to be the central currency of a little boy’s social economy. Doing things physically is the glue that holds their relationship intact.

Boys might say, “Do this.” Girls would say, “Let’s do this.”


Babies are born with an unquenchable need to understand the world around them. They use a series of increasingly self-corrected ideas to figure out how the world works: Make a sensory observation, form a hypothesis about what is going on, design an experiment capable of testing the hypothesis, and then draw conclusions from the findings.

Between 14-18 months is where children learn that people have desires and preferences separate from their own.

Our survival depended upon chaotic, reactive information-gathering experiences. One of our best attributes is the ability to learn through a series of increasingly self-corrected ideas. The right prefrontal cortex looks for errors in our hypothesis and an adjoining region tells us to change behavior.

If children are allowed to remain curios, they will continue to deploy their natural tendencies to discover and explore until they are 101. Discovery bring joy, like an addictive drug, exploration creates the need for more discovery so more joy can be experienced.

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