A brain scientist who is interesting? Even dynamic? Who ever heard it? But that’s Dr. John Medina, who presented to a crowded room in the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research’s STEM speaker series (say that three times fast) last week. The goal of the series is to promote the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in West Virginia.
I was familiar with Dr. Medina’s work because I had read and reviewed his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School for the High Calling (HC) in 2012. Dr. Medina has been a guest speaker at Laity Lodge in the past and was interviewed by the HC’s senior editor way back in 2006. So I knew he was gifted in presenting weighty information in an accessible way. But I didn’t know what an engaging lecturer he is.
He began his talk by saying we know very little about brain-behavior issues, stating that we have a “childlike” understanding of these things. And rather than let this dissuade his audience from investing our attention in his words, it rather seemed more of an invitation—we were embarking with him into a new frontier, a wide open field in need of further exploration. And for an hour, we did just that, entered into research and ideas and possibilities. Dr. Medina made the research come alive, numbers jumping off the page, trends sitting up and begging to be heard.
He talked a lot about exercise, how aerobic exercise boosts executive functioning in our brains and buffers against the negative effects of stress. He shared research that demonstrated a 20% boost in test scores if children have class immediately following aerobic exercise. He discussed Dr. Ellen Langer’s research that indicates moderate physical activity improves cognitive functioning in the elderly. He talked about how affective (Depression, Anxiety) disorders are decreased 80% by exercise alone.
It was fascinating and hopeful and had all kinds of implications for the classroom. Most of the information he presented is present in some fashion in Brain Rules, but he slanted this talk toward educators, to give ideas to improve STEM classrooms. Indeed, it seemed most of those in the audience were researchers or educators and this lonely writer felt a bit small. However, as one who does work (in the day job) with individuals with brain disorders, I found myself thinking in more creative ways about treatment.
It was an hour well spent, an inspiring playdate. And afterward, Dr. Medina even signed my book.
Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us: