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Rule # 8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

Dr. John Medina, Brain Rules

Rule # 8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.

According to researchers Jeansok Kim and David Diamond, stress requires three components:

1. Aroused physiological response

2. Stressor perceived as aversive

3. Person does not feel in control p. 173-174

Adrenaline floods the system during the physiological response. Along with adrenaline, cortisol also is released. These hormones form the “elite strike force” against stressors. We would die without these hormones, but over time an overload can occur. Acute responses are necessary and beneficial, but chronic can lead to a break down in the immune system. Stress affects the brain in the same way.

“Specifically, stress hurts declarative memory (things you can declare) and executive function (the type of thinking that involves problem solving). Those, of course, are skills needed to excel in school and business.” P. 178

When too many of these stress hormones hang around too long, as in chronic stress, learning is negatively affected. Chronic stress can lead to depression. “Depression is a deregulation of thought processes, including memory, language, quantitative reasoning, fluid intelligence, and spatial perception.” P 180

A model described in the book “says that stress, left alone, is neither harmful nor toxic. Whether stress becomes damaging is the result of a complex interaction between the outside world and our physiological capacity to manage the stress.” P. 182

Stress can injure productivity on the job in the following ways:

1. Natural improvisatory instincts

2. Health care costs rise.

3. Workers who burn out often lose their jobs.

Stress in a marriage can affect how the children function in school. Medina proposes parent training early in the lives of their children as well as free family counseling and day care. Questions to ask: Who is qualified to do this “parent training”? What criteria is used to conduct this parent training? Also, how do we define success?

We can certainly learn from this brain rule, but I would caution rushing to “free” services if these are provided by any government agency. However, we can support the family to develop a wholesome environment for children. Examples of private efforts: Care Net Pregnancy and Family Services provide free and confidential services including: providing support for those in unplanned pregnancies, teaching Smart Love and Smart Freedom to young people, parenting classes and more. Also, Family Academy / Academy Northwest support Family Directed Education. and


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