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brain rules

Regardless of how you feel about other drivers on the road, everyone has a brain. There has been and still is a lot of research being done about the human brain. Dr. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorders. That's a lot of fancy words that says he studies the brain.


In his book, brain rules, Dr. Medina explains that "the brain appears to be designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment, and to do so in nearly constant motion." He calls this the brain's performance envelope. Let's examine each of the four parts of this definition as it applies to riding a motorcycle

While we're riding, we need our brain to help us solve problems. We just need to focus on the right problems. Although it is somewhat important to be able to deal with a hazard we're facing, the real problem we should be solving is what we can do to make these hazards nonexistent. How can we position ourselves on the road and how do we approach a situation to make a potential hazard either not occur or not affect us?

Medina says these problems are related to surviving and for us they certainly are. There is very little likelihood that we could escape a crash unscathed. There are very few property damage only motorcycle crashes. Surviving for us means no injury or better yet, no crash. Working to reduce the number of hazardous situations we face is solving a problem that will increase our survival rate.

We clearly ride in an unstable outdoor environment where traffic is constantly changing. We know the other drivers are very unpredictable as evidenced by all of the wild and outwardly crazy things we've seen them do on the road. They're challenged by a myriad of distractions from cell phones to CDs and GPS; from eating to personal care. As if that's not enough, the road and weather conditions are an ever changing variable, too.

To top it off, we have to do all of this while we're all moving down the road in a sea of commotion. Not only is the road flying beneath us, but the traffic is also moving all around us. In this environment of seemingly perpetual motion we have to respond instantaneously to this continuous chaos. Our brain needs to be working all the time.

Many of us have learned to multitask which really means we are able to time slice our thinking process and share it with other activities. What we're actually doing is spending a little slice of time on one project, then a few seconds on the next activity and followed by a finite amount of time on the third. It may seem like we're doing several things at once, but we are just chopping our time into small increments and focusing each one on a different activity.

Dr. Medina says that it is "literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention." Think about when you're trying to read while watching TV. Are you really catching all of the dialogue in the movie and all of the written information? What happens when the phone rings while you're doing this? Is your concentration broken? Do you become distracted from your original tasks?

Like our clutch transferring power to the rear wheel, our brain only works when it's engaged. We need to be totally focused on our riding. We have to have our brain fully committed to the task of riding. We can't afford to be distracted while we ride. Our brain needs to be continuously working to "solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment, and to do so in nearly constant motion."

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!