Build a Better Brain: Using Everyday Neuroscience to Train Your Brain for Motivation, Discipline, Courage, and Mental Sharpness


Title: Build a Better Brain: Using Everyday Neuroscience to Train Your Brain for Motivation, Discipline, Courage, and Mental Sharpness
Authors: Peter Hollins
Edition: 1
Finished Date: 2019-04-20
Rating: 4
Language: English
Genres: Neuroscience, Neuroplasticity
Level: Entry
Publishers: Independently published
Publication Date: 2019-01-19
ISBN: 978-1794414662
Format: No
Pages: 252
Download: No

Most of time, “great” just means practiced or made habitual over a longer period of time

neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to change itself in response to the stimuli it encounters

lobes: subcomponents of the brain

4 lobes

  • frontal
    • reasoning
    • expression
    • body movements
  • parietal
    • process sensoring information
      • touch
      • pressure
      • pain
  • temporal
    • interpretation of sounds and language through the primary auditory cortex
    • process memories through the hippocampus
  • occipital
    • visual

cerebellum: muscle coordination

  • 10% of the brain
  • 50% of the neurons


  • about 700 new brain cells generate every day

how to enlarge hippocampus

  • physical exercise
  • eat foods high in Omega-3 fatty acid
  • abstaining from alcohol
  • learn a new language
  • solve challenging problems
  • learn a new and complicated subject

the triune brain theory

name brain part energy
neomammalian complex the prefrontal cortex most energy
reptilian complex loosely corresponds with the basal ganglia energy in the middle
paleomammalian complex the limbic system least energy

bad habit (least resistance): listen to the limbic system and build a habit upon it

The limbic system and basal ganglia are subconscious. Neuroplasticity depends on the ability of the prefrontal cortex.

Old people’s brain develop new “circuits” and different connections to their frontal lobes, which in turn open up new understandings and perceptions that only the rare young adult can develop.

2 types of neuroplasticity:

  1. structural (the focus of the book): concern the neuronal connections of the brain and strength of the neural network

    Neuroplasticity is created through repetitive actions and thoughts that eventually become habits and reinforce neural pathways.

    Learning is to create and strengthen connections between independent pieces of information.

    If you have a thought, it causes a neural change. If you keep having the same thought, it becomes a positive feedback loop that reinforces and cements the change. 这就是为什么要背书.

    Hence, your past does not determine your future. What determines it is only what you think in the very moment, and what you think in the future. The more challenge, discomfort, and effort spent, the more neuroplasticity will occur and the higher functioning our brains will be.
  2. functional


Almost any activity that engages the mind has been shown to stimulate the production of brain cells. + physical activities

The production remains definitely in only 2 parts of the brain

  1. hippocampus
  2. sub-ventricular zone

    • produce more neural cells than any other region in the brain
    • eventually new cells are distributed to forebrain

principles of neural growth

  • a personal interest
  • be methodical, persistent, and repetitive: a systematic and consistent approach + intensive retraining

    time, patience, practice


* Sprinting is more beneficial than leisurely jogging
  • stimulation/challenge on a deeper level in a controlled and directed manner

    The more stimulation => the more neural connections are built => the quicker you think => the more addictional connections you can make between unrelated information and thoughts

    Q: What kind of activity stimulates the brain the most?

    A: activity and learning things tackles unknown and foreign subjects, are the more challenge and struggle, with less familiarity. The opposite of pleasurable activity.

    If it’s easy, it’s not doing anything for the brain.

  • enrich your environment
    set up environment so that building neural connections automatically happens whether you choose them or not

* change the language of phone to a foreign language

The brain deals in specificity.


  • Practicing math won’t help you write a better essay; it will only help you math skills.
  • Practicing the piano won’t help with chess skills.
  • Playing brain games improve in ability to play the games, but these skills did not transfer between different tasks.

If you want to get real work done, you are going to have to work a little harder and more deeply.



  • mental rehearsal
  • physical
  • social
  • cognitive
  • sensory
  • nutritional


  • learning
  • reading

    exposure yourself to as many sides of a topic or issue as you can

  • mind calculation

    • grocery shopping
  • memorize

    • memorize the lyrics of songs
    • memorize maps
    • meet a new person, memorize 3 different pieces of information about them in addition to their name

      input information in a index card after getting home

      review them time to time

  • take a mental snapshots in a event

  • before sleep, think back on the events you experienced over the day that just passed
  • use non-dominant hand

sensory (vision, taste, smell, touch, hearing)

  • play music
  • rotate pictures on wall every few months
  • keep house clean and pleasantly scented

physical that increased blood flow and burn fat, not too strenuous and difficult to create stress

the Neuroscience of Yes: Motivation, Discipline, and Focus

motivation & desire: dopamine

mesolimbic pathway: the most vital reward pathway in the human brain

go-getters: dopamine in prefrontal cortex

slacker: dopamine in anterior insular

inhibition: the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC)

  • How well you can focus and ignore distraction is directly correlated to how well you control the VLPFC
  • VLPF is the only part of the brain that inhibits distractions

    => It is hard to break the distraction loop. Once dopamine makes up its mind, it can override every inhibiting factor in its path way with desire for pleasure or gratification
    => 1. You need to deal with distractions before they take hold. 2. It has to happen in relatively short order

    We should hyper-aware of whether attention goes, and turn everything that’s distracting off as much as possible. The brain cannot distinguish between an act and a thought.


2 structures of the brain that are especially active in the formation of habits

  1. orbitofrontal cortex: decision-making, plan


    • impulsive
    • struggle to meet a certain goal
    • desire to indulge in what’s comfortable, familiar, easy, safe, and lazy

      As Conscious decisions are repeatedly made in the orbitofrontal cortex, they become engraved in the striatum.

  2. striatum: planning of motor activities, rewards, repetitive behaviors

Hebb’s Axiom: cells that wire together, fire together

When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite a cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A’s efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.

One of the cells has to fire first. But the more constantly that closely related cells interact, the more they become fused in a neural sense and the faster they’ll get as time goes on. Each decision you make is important from the cumulative standpoint.