LifeStyle Newsletter - Use Your Brain

June 13, 2014

Use Your Brain!
If you’ve been “feeling your age” lately, you may want to pick up a copy of molecular biologist John Medina’s newly updated and expanded book Brain Rules (or download it onto your mobile device). In the book, he marvels at the wonder that is the human brain:

“Easily the most sophisticated information-transfer system on Earth, your brain is fully capable of taking the little black squiggles in this book and deriving meaning from them. To accomplish this miracle, your brain sends jolts of electricity crackling through hundreds of miles of wires composed of brain cells so small that thousands of them could fit into the period at the end of this sentence… What’s really incredible, given our intimate association with it, is this: Most of us have no idea how our brain works.”

Rules to think by
The rules mentioned in the title of the book introduce readers to things scientists know about the brain – things that can help us work, learn, and play better. The rules are supported by scientific research and accompanied by interesting stories. The book also offers ideas about how the rules may apply to daily life. For instance, in highly abbreviated form, here are two of the rules Medina offers:

  • Rule #2: Exercise boosts brainpower. Anthropologists estimate our ancestors walked or ran 10 to 12 kilometers (about 6 to 8 miles) every day. The implication is our brains developed while we were moving and contending with a variety of threats: animals, fires, floods, and the like. As it turns out, people who exercise consistently show better cognitive performance than those who don’t. Medina’s suggestion: At work, hold meetings during walks.
  • Rule #8: Vision trumps all other senses. When USA Today was first published, the idea of less text and more words was widely ridiculed. Within four years, the paper had the second largest readership in the country. We pay a lot of attention to what we see – color, orientation, size, and motion. We had to, just to survive. A take away from the vision rule is this: If you want to communicate an idea effectively, use visuals and motion.

If you find the human brain fascinating and want to learn more about it or you want to gather as much information about how to maximize performance at work, learning in school, and downtime at home, then you should find time to read Brain Rules.

Summer Salad and Economic Speculation
Freakonomics Radio recently offered an article called: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Avocado? It questioned the moral calculus of outrage by contrasting moral outrage over the death of Marius, a giraffe in a zoo in Copenhagen, with outrage over human deaths in Syria. Chickens and avocadoes also were an important part of the podcast which examined how people determine the right thing to do and whether doing the right thing has an impact economically. It makes for an interesting discussion, maybe over a lunch that includes a great summer salad. The avocadoes in this recipe can be bought locally (or left out entirely).

Corn and Avocado Salad
2½ cups corn, fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
½ cup green bell pepper, finely diced
½ cup sweet red pepper, finely diced
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
1 large avocado, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk dressing ingredients until they are well blended. Mix salad ingredients in a colorful bowl, add dressing, and mix well. Chill. Serve with tortilla chips.

What Do You Know About Anatomy?
While it’s true few of us understand exactly how our brains work, that doesn’t mean we’re ignorant about human anatomy. Test your knowledge of anatomy and physiology with this quiz. (If you have a student studying medicine, nursing, or biology at home, they can help, too!)

  1. What is the name for a muscle that turns a limb to face upwards?
    a. Sphincter
    b. Supinator
    c. Pronator
  2. The hand is inferior to the arm.
    a. True
    b. False
  3. The larynx is:
    a. A short tube located in the throat
    b. Part of the circulatory system
    c. The bone that covers and protects the anterior side of the heart
  4. The nervous system includes:
    a. The brain and spinal cord
    b. A network of nerves
    c. Parallel strands of wire-like axons
    d. All of the above

Looking for Your Next Career?
Baby Boomers, ages 44 to 70, have started another trend: Encore careers. That’s right. Once they finish their regular careers, instead of moving into retirement, they’re starting new careers. According to AARP, about nine million Americans have opted to change occupations instead of leaving the workforce and 31 million more are interested in pursuing second careers. For some, it is pure economics: they need to work to make ends meet. For others, it’s just they aren’t ready to quit working. Either way, embracing a new career creates opportunities to share knowledge and make a difference while continuing to feather your nest.

Many encore careers involve paid or part-time work related to a social mission in the non-profit or public sector. has established The Encore Fellowships Network® to “deliver new sources of talent to organizations solving critical social problems. These paid, time-limited Fellowships match skilled experienced professionals with social-purpose organizations in high-impact assignments.”

In addition to helping others, working and volunteering helps many older adults maintain existing relationships and build new connections within their communities. It also can help preserve a sense of purpose and relevance that is vital to healthy living. If you would like to learn more, visit or pick up a copy of The Encore Career Handbook.

Quiz Answers:
1. B – Supinator
2. A – True
3. A – A short tube located in the throat
4. D – All of the above

The above material was prepared by Peak Advisor Alliance.