Brain Rules by John Medina, PhD – Rule #1

Dr. Medina’s Brain Rule # 1: Exercise Boosts Brain Power.

Medina tells of the astounding physical and mental strength of 90 year old Jack LaLanne. Also, he talks about the many elderly in nursing homes who have lost much physical and mental capacity. Contrasting these, Medina showcases the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright who in his late 80s remained alert. Researchers wonder what factors determine how we age. He explores this issue by answering six questions:

1)    Is there one factor that predicts how well you will age? Research indicates that an active lifestyle is more likely to lead to a long active life. (p. 13)

2)    Did mental function improve with exercise? Studies indicate that while an active lifestyle does not cause a well-functioning brain, there is a definite relationship. (p. 14)

3)    Can you reverse the process in a person who is already aging mentally and physically? To some extent, yes. (p. 14-15)

4)    What’s the bad news? According to the research, aerobic exercise – 30 minutes -2-3 times a week is optimal even though the exact amount is individual. (p. 15)

5)    Can exercise treat brain disorders? Risk for depression, dementia, anxiety and Alzheimer’s reduces with exercise probably it regulates the release of three neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine) that are associated with mental health. Some studies even show that exercise can replace antidepressant medications. (p. 15-17)

6)    Are the cognitive blessings of exercise only for the elderly? While there are fewer studies on younger populations, those that have been done indicate that active children learn better. (p. 17-18)

Medina provides a detailed explanation of the digestive system and how it provides oxygen to the brain. In short, “Physical activity is cognitive candy.” (p. 22)

Studies show that taking away recess from students reduced academic progress. Adding physical education improved academic achievement. During the school day and the work day, physical activity increases productivity. “Fit employees are capable of mobilizing their God-given IQs better than sedentary employees.” (p. 27)

More information (in video clips) and extensive, notated references are available on

Disclaimer: Dr. Medina uses the evolutionary model to explain much of his brain rules. However, what he observes and the studies he talks about can still help those of us who are not evolutionists.

A Book Review: Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder by Karyn Seroussi

Miles Seroussi’s development began normally, but abruptly came to a halt. Early diagnosis of autism sent his mother, Karyn, on a journey of research and recovery. She found some researchers that believed autism to be a biologically based condition.

Among these researchers she learned from Bernard Rimland, PhD, Director of Autism Research Institute. He wrote the forward for this book saying that while it reads like a detective story, it accurately chronicles her family’s journey. Rimland’s book Infantile Autism published in 1964 laid to rest the pernicious theory that unloving “refrigerator” mothers caused autism. In spite of studies related to vaccinations in general and the MMR in particular, the medical establishment fails to confirm the connection in at least some situations. Further, studies regarding the benefit of Vitamin B6 for many children with autism are scoffed at or ignored by poorly informed physicians.

Karyn also learned that Paul Shattock and Karl Reichelt had identified neuropeptides. Her husband, Alan a researcher for Ortho, a division of Johnson and Johnson began a study to confirm that these neuropeptides were casomorphin and apha-gliadin with the idea of developing a routine neonatal or postnatal diagnostic test to identify autism much earlier.

In addition to these and other researchers, Karyn was doing her own work with other families, like theirs, that were doing home-based behavioral programs. Through the official research and her case studies, she found a number of factors that were true of many or some of these children in about ten families.

  1. Gluten – by using an elimination diet they discovered that in most cases their children did better without gluten.
  2. Dairy – they observed that many of the children had difficulty with dairy –especially casein, but some with lactose.
  3. Other food allergies.
  4. Yeast –many of these children had suffered from many ear / other infections and received many antibiotics – thus encouraging candida. Nystatan and / or probiotics deal with this.
  5. “Leaky gut” -all of this results in a condition that prevents nutritional absorption.
  6. Vaccinations – while Karyn did not begin with this belief she later realized that this was a factor for many.
  7. Genetics – a predisposition to a weak immune system may cause the assaults listed above to overwhelm the system and lead to autistic behaviors.

Part of what brought Seroussi to the conclusion of the genetic factor was her own health. When she listed her symptoms, she realized that they matched the symptoms of food allergy and yeast overgrowth: extreme fatigue, disorientation and “brain fog”, diarrhea and bloating, joint pain and morning stiffness, always feel cold, sleep disorder, intolerance to pain, difficulty exercising, sugar cravings, caffeine intolerance, back pain, frequent muscle spasms, clothes and shoes feel uncomfortable and restrictive.

In the second part of her book, the author presents the diet that has helped so many. Others have achieved results from different diets, however, Seroussi has produced a work that brings to light many of the factors that contribute to the condition we call autism and pervasive developmental disorder.

Confirming this journey of research and recovery led to the disqualification / discontinuing of special services before Miles went to school. As he entered kindergarten, his mother only told the teacher of his food allergies. Later, when she mentioned it to the teacher, he was amazed. Also, what every mother loves to hear, “I love you mommy,” has brought joy to this mother’s heart.

Learning about the Brain: A Look Backward and A Look Forward

A Look Backward:

Recently, we completed our chapter by chapter review of The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge M.D. Since then I learned of this short video clip inspired by this book. Enjoy:

A Look Forward:

Now we will begin reviewing chapter by chapter, Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina.

In April, 2010 I was introduced to this book at a training session led by Dr. John Medina in Tacoma, Washington. He is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. Further, he is an affiliate Professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington school of Medicine and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.

In the introduction, Medina tells us about a group of individuals who have the ability to do amazing things in spite of their IQ of 50 or less (with 100 being average). With an average IQ – more or less—we can do many things these individuals cannot, but we cannot do these specific things. These “savant” abilities amaze us, but even what we call “normal” demonstrates the amazing abilities of the brain. I am reminded of Psalm 139 that tells us that “we are fearfully and wonderfully made, who can know it?”

We are learning more and more of God’s handiwork and yet, we will never understand it all in our life in this world.

While Medina shares our awe of our marvelous brain, he looks to the “evolutionary process” as the source. However, as a great scientist he does have a powerful sense of observation and we can learn from him. He states his goal for the book well:

“My goal is to introduce you to 12 things we know about how the brain works. I call these Brain Rules. For each rule, I present the science and then offer for investigation how the rule might apply to our daily lives, especially at work and school. The brain is complex, and I am taking only slivers of information from each subject – not comprehensive but, I hope, accessible. The Brain Rules film, available at , is an integral part of the project.”

We will go through these rules one-by-one.

Homeschool Annual Testing: Important Considerations for Parents

          Home educators must consider important questions regarding the issue of academic testing. Ask and answer these questions as you prepare to assess your child’s progress.

Why should I have my child assessed or tested?

One very practical reason is that your state law may specify that you must. Whether or not the state is overstepping its authority with such a law is a question for another time. Knowing the homeschool law in your state is only the first step in this consideration. For some their state law requires some sort of testing annually and some state require testing at only certain grade levels, every two or three years. Some state laws specify which tests, types of tests and who can administer the test.

Besides the law, having your child assessed or tested can provide a third party evaluation of the progress your child is making. I do recognize that parents know their child much better than any other person, regardless of the training of either the parent or the test administrator. However, we may have a blind spot regarding some areas. Test results can provide direction and encouragement. To maximize the information you receive you should interview the test administrator to learn if that individual will provide the information that you need or want from the process. The test administrator may also be able to answer other questions regarding educating your child.

Another reason to have your child assessed is to prepare a child for future testing for college or for obtaining a job. When done on an annual basis, a child is more likely to take in stride any of the normal “butterflies in the stomach” he may experience.

What kind of test / assessment should we use?

Again, refer to your state law to determine what types of tests or assessments will fulfil the law. You may decide that what you need is a different assessment tool so you may choose to do one to comply with the state and another to gather the information you require.

There are two general types of test that would usually be used for an annual assessment. First, consider a standardized, normed test. Test makers standardize the way the test is administrated so that when they use an average sample group of test takers, they can compare your child’s scores with the scores with the “norming group.” These are often more objective than the second type. Second, there are non-test assessments. In the state of Washington, the non-test assessment is not defined, but the one administering it must be a certified teacher currently working in the field of education. Your state may define this second choice more specifically. In Washington, teachers who administer non-test assessments may use a variety of tools and / or may evaluate student work in the different subjects. Your interview will help you find an administrator and an assessment right for your child. Most children feel less stress with the non-test assessment and you may be isolating what your child knows from learning how well your child tests.

It is possible that your child will benefit from diagnostic testing – to find holes in learning or testing to determine if there is a learning difficulty.

What questions should I ask as I interview a test administrator? Here are some to get you started:

  1. Where do you administer tests? (You may rule some out based on how close you live and if you are willing to make the trip for the times and frequency required.)
  2. What tests do you administer?
  3. What kind of results will I get?
  4. When will I get the results?
  5. Will I need to stay on the premises during the testing?
  6. Or, may I sit in during the assessment?
  7. How long will the test take?
  8. What are your qualifications for administering this test / assessment?
  9. How long have you been testing?
  10. How much does the testing cost?
  11. Based on this information (what you provide) which test would you recommend for my child?
  12. If a group test, how many will be in the testing?

For information regarding homeschooling testing and other matters, contact the Home School Legal Defense Association: They provide information regarding the homeschool laws in all 50 states as well as state wide homeschool organizations. It is a great first website to learn about homeschooling. For Washington State residents, find test providers on (look under homeschooling, the law, annual testing, and list).

One way to help prepare your child for standardized testing is to use workbooks that are designed to provide practice. One such curriculum is featured / on sale on: (right hand side under Shopping Basket.)