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Dr. Sherrie All: A neuropsychologist shaping the future of cognitive wellness

Dr. Sherrie All

Sher­rie D. All, Ph.D

What is your cur­rent job title and orga­ni­za­tion, and what excites you the most about work­ing there?
I’m the founder of the Chicago Cen­ter for Cog­ni­tive Well­ness and con­sul­tant to Mather Life­Ways.  What excites me about work­ing at both places is that it enables me to be a pio­neer in help­ing peo­ple bet­ter under­stand and take care of their brains.

Please tell us about your inter­est in applied brain sci­ence. What areas are you most inter­ested in? What moti­vated you to pur­sue work in your field?
As a neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist, what moti­vated me to pur­sue this work were all of the peo­ple who would come in for neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tions with long his­to­ries of hyper­ten­sion, dia­betes, and smok­ing who never thought for one sec­ond about the impact that this was hav­ing on their brains. I’m most inter­ested in edu­cat­ing the pub­lic about cog­ni­tive reserve and how each of us can har­ness it to improve our brains both now and as we age, low­er­ing the risk for demen­tia.  A recent arti­cle in the jour­nal Neu­rol­ogy esti­mated that the rate of demen­tia will triple in the next 40 years unless pre­ventable mea­sures are dis­cov­ered, but so many pre­ventable mea­sures are already at our dis­posal.  Peo­ple need to know this!!  There is a lot of talk about brain fit­ness in the media, but very lit­tle qual­ity edu­ca­tion — so I really appre­ci­ate the sec­ond edi­tion of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness.  I hope to help peo­ple take charge!

What is one impor­tant thing you are work­ing on now, and where can peo­ple learn more about it?
My cen­ter has started to offer a 6-month coach­ing pro­gram that leads peo­ple through the process of iden­ti­fy­ing their risk for demen­tia and help them work to improve brain health.  I am doing this both indi­vid­u­ally and in groups, with the groups meet­ing over the inter­net.  Even when peo­ple know what to do to keep their brains healthy, they often can’t get started or stay moti­vated.  These coach­ing expe­ri­ences are aimed at help­ing peo­ple over­come these obsta­cles, devel­op­ing and main­tain­ing new habits for bet­ter brain health.  Peo­ple can learn more about it at cogwellness.com and by read­ing the fun New Yorker arti­cle that Alvaro Fer­nan­dez helped produce.

What are 1–2 key things you’d like every per­son to under­stand regard­ing his/ her own brain and mind, that you think is com­monly mis­rep­re­sented or not addressed in the pop­u­lar media?
How your brain ages is pro­foundly impacted by how you live your life.  At every age we make choices that affect the amount that we “invest” in our Brain’s 401K (the brain’s reserve account), influ­enc­ing how much a dis­ease or injury will affect our abil­ity to func­tion or think clearly. Also, how you treat your body affects how your brain ages.  More men­tal stim­u­la­tion may not be the first thing that a younger per­son needs in terms of improv­ing focus and low­er­ing the risk for demen­tia.  Stress reduc­tion, phys­i­cal activ­ity and weight loss may be higher pri­or­i­ties for them.

Where do you see clear “low-hanging fruit” to enhance behav­ioral and brain health based on neu­ro­science and inno­va­tion?
A one-stop shop for peo­ple to develop holis­tic, brain-healthy behav­iors.  A brain spa.

What would you like the 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit to accom­plish?
Con­tinue to inspire and help con­nect like-minded peo­ple with one another in a fun and time-efficient way to help advance the field of brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive wellness.

Finally, what do YOU do to stay sharp?
I exer­cise, eat more veg­gies than I used to, avoid high fruc­tose cor syrup and nitrates, learn all the time, get reg­u­lar mas­sages, med­i­tate, con­nect with my sup­port net­work, and soak up love from my kids daily –usu­ally this involves either mak­ing mean­ing­ful eye con­tact or rub­bing my cheek on their cheeks [they’re still sort of babies] until I feel a burst of oxytocin.

2013 SharpBrains SummitThis con­ver­sa­tion is part of a new inter­view series with Speak­ers and Par­tic­i­pants in the upcom­ing 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit (Sep­tem­ber 19-20th). You can reg­is­ter with a 20% dis­count using pro­mo­tional code: sharp2020

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