Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina – Brain Rule # 9 – Stimulate More of the Senses


When our brains are neurologically organized and sensory input is received accurately, they process an incredible amount of input simultaneously.  In this rule, Dr. Medina concentrates primarily on the sense of smell which surprisingly plays a big part in our lives. It is the one sense that cannot be turned off.  The others must ask the thalamus for permission to transmit the sensation. We often remember things based upon an odor that our brains associated with an event.  Most of this takes place in association cortices which are “specialized areas that exist throughout the brain, including the parietal, temporal, and frontal lobes.”  They function as bridges between the sensory and motor areas. P. 204

This integration of sensory input proceeds through three steps: 1) sensation; 2) routing and 3) perception. Once the stimulus makes its way to the appropriate place, “various senses start merging their information. These integrated signals are sent to increasingly complex areas of the brain…and we begin to perceive what our senses have given us.” P. 203

For learning multisensory input is more efficient than unisensory input. Review’s note: If a student has difficulty with the the reception of sensory input and demonstrates sensory overload, the system must be normalized through neurodevelopmental activities.

Multisensory Rules:

1)    Multimedia principle – words and pictures are better than words alone.

2)    Temporal contiguity principle – words and pictures shown simultaneously are better than successively.

3)    Spatial contiguity principle – words and pictures that are near to each other are better than apart.

4)    Coherence principle – excluded extraneous material is better than included extraneous material.

5)    Modality principle – narrated animation is better than animation with written text.

“…researchers have found that certain types of memory are exquisitely sensitive to smells and other types of nearly impenetrable. Odors appear to do their finest work” … to retrieve emotional memories.  “Odors are not so good at retrieving declarative memory.”  P. 212 However, if we add an odor during a presentation of information, it adds an emotion to the mix and a memory forms.

”Smells have an unusual power to bring back memories maybe because smell signals bypass the thalamus and heads straight to their destinations which include that supervisor of emotions known as the amygdala.” P. 219