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Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Your Best Brain - The Science of Brain Development

I'm a sucker for anything by John Medina, so when I saw that he actually had a Great Courses program called Your Best Brain, I picked it up hoping that it wouldn't be too much of a repeat from say, Brain Rules for Baby.

It turns out not to overlap with the book very much at all, which is great! The major thesis of the program is that your brain is a physical object, and therefore is subject to all the laws of physics and chemistry, along with the rules set by evolution. The net result is that a lot of the times, Medina explains something through the thought experiment of thinking about what man's ancient ancestors on the plains of the Serengeti had to face, and what problems the brain evolved to solve.

The coverage then starts from Neurons and Dendrites, and then moves on to the major areas of the brain. Each lecture ends with practical tips on how to optimize your brain. Most of them are no brainers, like: "get enough sleep! Just a few hours of sleep debt is enough to make you behave like you're drunk!"

Other interesting tips:

  • If you need to learn something for a test, try to do the learning in an environment as similar to test conditions as possible.
  • Memories work best via repetition, but not cramming. And all nighters (as you would expect from the above) are a no-no.
  • Classic teenage rebellious behavior is a Western phenomenon. In most non-Western cultures, you do not get teenage rebellious behavior unless/until the kids in those cultures have been exposed to western media.
  • Elizabeth Kuber-Ross's ideas about the stages of grief ("denial//anger/bargaining/depression/acceptance") is BS. For most humans, the response to grief is resilience.
  • Get 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week to optimize brain function. Yes, that means Garmin's Vivoactive HR's "intensity minutes" approach is completely correct.
All in all, the course is great, and I can recommend it. Well worth the time.

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