TheBrain for studying Part 1


In this post, I would like to share my setup for using PersonalBrain (6.0 Free) for assisting me during a course of electrical engineering. A little background information: I am taking a home/on-line course in say, information wise, the first year of electrical engineering. I was already halfway through the course at chapter 12, when I realized I could use personal brain to make proper connections between all the elements. Instead of following the linear education you get from books. In a way, I am guessing that these connections should be made in my head while learning… which I am doing also. 😉

The application “The Brain” (link), is an information management tool which looks like a mind map but should be more looked at as a network of information nodes.

On with the brain! Its in Dutch but since it’s engineering most of the stuff will be recognizable even for English speaking people. For the overall setup I choose to do everything in Dutch since my exam will also be in Dutch.

Chapters usually focus on a specific subject so I make a pin for the main subject of the chapter I am currently working on.

I choose to divide between a couple of main branches and whenever I am linking to something in another branch I do this by a jump thought.

Icons I grabbed from and It is a bit of a hassle to use icons in the free brain version but its still doable.

NOTE: After going trough more chapters (3) the brain setup went trough some reorganizing. New set up, examples and explanation can be found in the part 2 (link) blog post.

Main thought and first branches

The main thought is the course name “Elektriciteitsleer” which translates as “Electrical engineering”. From their I make thoughts of the main areas I encounter during the course. These are:

  • Definities (Definitions, explanations of ..)
  • Formules (Equations / specific calculations)
  • Mensen (People, like Volta, Tesla with a little history information)
  • Schakelingen (Circuit diagrams)
  • Grootheden – Eenheden en symbolen (Units and symbols)
  • Best practices, this is where I note how to configure and structure the thoughts in this brain.
  • Realisaties (Realisations) I make notes here when I realise something that could or could not be done with the information I pick up in this course (future planning).



Since I am working out of a single textbook I have made tags that go along with anything from a certain chapter. Currently I have worked on chapter 12 so mostly all of the notes I stored in the brain relate to chapter 12. Later when going through my brain while having more chapters I could easily reference a certain item to a chapter in the book. For more information I then know where to look this up. I have made the tags a grayish colour so they don’t pop out to much. H stands for Hoofdstuk which means Chapter in English.

Thought types

The thought types I use are the following:

  • Definitie (definition)
  • Eigenschap (property)
  • Extra info (additional nice information) From the textbook or what I found online.
  • Ezelsbruggetje (exact translation: Donkey bridge, proper translation: Mnemonic)
  • Soort / Variant / Type / Ras (Species / Variant / Type / Race) for different types of something.
  • Werking (how it works information)


Branch specific, equations

I make equations thoughts (the name) and below that the actual equation. Naturally equations can be constructed in different ways to calculate a certain variable. I add all different possibilities in here. The name of the variable I will calculate is linked to a definition. 

When selecting a certain equation this is jump linked to all the variables it contains in the unit branch. For easy reference those have a Wikipedia page as attachment.


Branch specific, units

The units and symbol branch has a jump thought to derived unites (milli / nano / pico) and to constants, for other things it contains see below.


Branch specific, definitions

The definitions branch is rather large, importantly it holds the summary of what something is. Its workings, its properties, its diagram symbol, a picture if its an object. A Condensator is a Capacitor in English.

The idea is to have the main thought as the focus and then by hovering over the other thoughts its connected to seeing the information in the notes area. For example when hovering over “werking” (how it works) I see the following:


Experiences of using the brain for studying this way.

Currently I have done only one chapter, so the long term effects cant be measured yet. What I have noticed is:

  • It actually took me less time to go trough this chapter then what I had with other chapters. This time it took me about 4 hours (2 evenings), this even includes the creation and setting up of the brain.
  • I found myself in a flow state where I studied from about 7 to 9:30 without even noticing the lapse in time.
  • I was even looking up additional information on the web concerning my course, something I rarely do.
  • Mini breaks in the form of looking up a nice looking icon for a certain thought was rather nice…
  • More thoroughly thinking about the subject matter, how it is structured (how I wanted it structured in my brain) and how it relates (what thought can I link this thought to in other parts of my brain?)

I will be continuing to study this way (for now) and update with a new post on any progress concerning TheBrain usage.

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