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Dr. Chapman Q&A Transcript: Best Brain Health Fitness Tip? “Never let status quo be an option”

Here’s the light­ly edit­ed tran­script of the Jan­u­ary 4th online Q&A ses­sion with Dr. San­dra Chap­man, Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Brain­Health at UT-Dal­las and author of the new book Make Your Brain Smarter (Free Press; Jan­u­ary 2013). Enjoy!

1:59

AlvaroF: You can start writ­ing ques­tions so we have a few to choose from as we start in a cou­ple of min­utes. Thank you!

2:03
AlvaroF: Just one sec­ond and we’ll be ready. Already get­ting great ques­tions!

2:05
AlvaroF: Let me first thank Dr. San­dra Chap­man for being with us today. She was one of the best speak­ers at our 2012 Sum­mit, and since then we want­ed to share her research and think­ing with all Sharp­Brains read­ers.

2:05
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Hel­lo! Look­ing for­ward to thought­ful ques­tions and dis­cus­sion.

2:05
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Thank you, Alvaro. It was tru­ly a plea­sure to con­nect with you and be a part of the suc­cess­ful 2012 Sum­mit.

2:06
AlvaroF: Dr. Chap­man, let me kick­start the con­ver­sa­tion with a cou­ple ques­tions, before we intro­duce all oth­ers. 1) What dri­ves your great work at UT-Dal­las?, 2) what would you like read­ers to get from the book you just released, Make Your Brain Smarter?

2:09
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: I’m dri­ven by knowl­edge that our brain is the last, newest and most impor­tant fron­tier to advance health glob­al­ly. My goal with Make Your Brain Smarter was to empow­er indi­vid­u­als to put their brain health in up front and cen­ter focus every sin­gle day. We are each pow­ered by our brain; it is ours alone to con­di­tion and care for and now we are begin­ning to learn how to do so. Spe­cif­ic tips to max­i­mize your cog­ni­tive poten­tial are with­in the book and the web­site for the book — makeyourbrainsmarter.com.

2:09
Com­ment From Julian
I am a 78 year’s old retired pub­lic accoun­tant and a ser­i­al entre­pre­neur. My last ven­ture (num­ber 5) is the trans­la­tion of a book about brain fit­ness from Eng­lish to Span­ish. The lat­ter is my native lan­guage. The tar­get pop­u­la­tion of the trans­la­tion is the neo­phyte read­er. Con­se­quent­ly, not only I have to trans­late but explain com­plex terms and ideas into sim­ple phras­es. • Am I cor­rect in assum­ing that the men­tal activ­i­ty involved in trans­lat­ing is a frontal­ly medi­at­ed cog­ni­tive com­plex think­ing process? • Is the fact that I have to trans­late and explain com­plex terms and ideas a fac­tor in ame­lio­rat­ing the ten­den­cy of the brain to become less active as we increase our pro­fi­cien­cy in a par­tic­u­lar activ­i­ty? • How could I access SMART?

2:11
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: What an under­tak­ing! Absolute­ly. To be able to trans­late requires deep­er lev­el pro­cess­ing because you have to trans­form lan­guage to new words and new ideas which draws heav­i­ly on com­plex frontal net­works. The only caveat is that the top­ic must be of inter­est to you to ignite your pas­sion and moti­va­tion and not be a dread­ed chore.

2:11
Com­ment From Dee ONeill
Hi Dr. Chap­man, a plea­sure to have vis­it­ed the cen­ter and look for­ward to the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work togeth­er. Won­der­ing what your long term vision for the cen­ter and future offer­ings might be? thank you Alvaro for hav­ing this won­der­ful event avail­able for us…

2:12
Com­ment From Bar­bara Robin­son
Mov­ing for­ward what do you see as core com­po­nents for the advance­ment in brain health?

2:12
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: The nine spe­cif­ic strate­gies of SMART are out­lined in the book, Make Your Brain Smarter, with spe­cif­ic exam­ples for each gen­er­a­tion across the lifes­pan.

2:13
AlvaroF: San­di, I com­bined the ques­tions by Dee and Bar­bara, as they are sim­i­lar. Let me add mine to them: what of those 9 strate­gies is often over­looked?

2:15
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Hi Dee! Our goal is once the dis­cov­er­ies are sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly val­i­dat­ed at the Cen­ter for Brain­Health and in the field of brain sci­ence to be made wide­ly avail­able to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble as quick­ly as pos­si­ble — across the lifes­pan, whether indi­vid­u­als are healthy or with brain injury or brain dis­ease.

2:17
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Unfor­tu­nate­ly, most of the strate­gies out­lined are over­looked because peo­ple are over­work­ing and overus­ing their brain and tak­ing infor­ma­tion in and regur­gi­tat­ing it with­out syn­the­siz­ing new ideas. The last three strate­gies out­lined for inno­va­tion are at an all time low in young indi­vid­u­als and old­er indi­vid­u­als.

2:17
Com­ment From Lau­rie
Does the risk of Alzheimers great­ly, mod­er­ate­ly, or not effect the increase for a teenage ath­lete who has incurred one major con­cus­sion?

2:17
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Our brain was wired to be inspired, but we are burn­ing it out and exhaust­ing it.

2:20
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Hi Lau­rie, we do not know the answer to that yet, but we are involved in the longest run­ning lon­gi­tu­di­nal study fol­low­ing pedi­atric brain injury. We do know that lat­er emerg­ing deficits can occur in teens, but we do not know the extent to which they are linked to Alzheimer’s dis­ease devel­oped lat­er in life. We do know that if we rebound the brain after injury at any age, the brain will have the great­est chance of build­ing cog­ni­tive reserves.

2:21
AlvaroF: I under­stand you’re pub­lish­ing a very rel­e­vant JAMA study next week, cor­rect?

2:21
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: We are show­ing tremen­dous gains in cog­ni­tive func­tion after brain injury whether the injury was suf­fered one year ago, two years ago or 10 years ago.

2:21
Com­ment From Nikhil Sri­ra­man
Thank you for host­ing this Alvaro and Dr. Chap­man! Build­ing on the ques­tion of entre­pre­neuri­al­ism and your work at the Cen­ter for Brain­Health, Dr. Chap­man, what oppor­tu­ni­ties do you see for bring­ing some of the ground break­ing research from labs and health cen­ters into the homes of ear­ly adopters seek­ing to opti­mize their cog­ni­tive capa­bil­i­ties through reg­u­lar prac­tices and rit­u­als? For exam­ple, do you see a greater adop­tion and need for com­mer­cial­ly avail­able devices that enable mind­ful­ness train­ing through neu­ro­feed­back?

2:22
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Yes, we have been work­ing with ath­letes and the arti­cle will pub­lish 3 pm on Mon­day Jan­u­ary 7 in JAMA Neu­rol­o­gy. The study was led by Dr. John Hart, our med­ical sci­ence direc­tor at the Cen­ter.

2:24
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: My work focus on strate­gies that can be read­i­ly adopt­ed into your every­day think­ing to build brain capac­i­ty, not where you have to take 30 min­utes or one hour a day to prac­tice. We are show­ing that the nine strate­gies out­lined in Make Your Brain Smarter are improv­ing brain func­tion at all lev­els of orga­ni­za­tion from increas­ing brain blood flow, to func­tion­al con­nec­tiv­i­ty, to increas­ing white mat­ter con­nec­tions in young and old and in injury and in health.

2:25
Com­ment From John Demand
Do you think it is pos­si­ble through brain train­ing to make humans react and process infor­ma­tion faster? I train police offi­cers and am attempt­ing to do just that.

2:25
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: One of the key strate­gies is the brain­pow­er of none — which empha­sizes how deep­er lev­el think­ing comes when you calm your mind, which is a key ele­ment of mind­ful­ness train­ing.

2:27
AlvaroF: San­di, did you see John’s ques­tion?

2:27
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Faster is not always bet­ter; we want to train indi­vid­u­als to know when to make deci­sions faster and when to make them slow­er. When indi­vid­u­als are able to quick­ly sum up a sit­u­a­tion, they can respond more quick­ly, if they know the best actions to take. That’s what my brain train­ing pro­gram teach­es. We’re work­ing with the spe­cial oper­a­tions com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing Navy SEALS, and one of the ben­e­fits of train­ing that they have voiced is the abil­i­ty to make quick­er deci­sions. We’d love to be able to work with police offi­cers!

2:28
Com­ment From John Demand
We encour­age breath­ing tech­niques for exam­ple when respond­ing to a call to calm the body and brain. Would that the type of strat­e­gy be what you are rec­om­mend­ing?

2:30
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Your heartrate and brain-rate can be linked. Know­ing how to calm the brain down, despite a rapid­ly chang­ing sit­u­a­tion, is key to mak­ing the most time­ly and appro­pri­ate actions. If you can train them to slow the brain down using the brain­pow­er of none, it will rein­force a slow­er heartrate.

2:30
Com­ment From John Demand
I would be very inter­est­ed in work­ing with you to improve my train­ing. My web­site is: www.observationondemand.com It would be great to col­lab­o­rate on this essen­tial train­ing.

2:30
Com­ment From Jane Wash­burn
How do you know how much is too much?

2:31
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Great! I will look at your web­site.

2:32
Com­ment From Wendy
Hi. I have a 10 year old daugh­ter that had a stroke in utero. She has visu­al pro­cess­ing issues and has been doing cog­ni­tive train­ing with the Arrow­smith pro­gram. Have you seen suc­cess with cog­ni­tive train­ing in peo­ple with stroke?

2:32
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Jane, are you ask­ing how much is too much infor­ma­tion?

2:33
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Wendy: YES! That is actu­al­ly where my work in brain health began 30 years ago, from young kids to adults. Most peo­ple that do brain train­ing after stroke or injury focus on low­er lev­el cog­ni­tive skills; I’ve found tak­ing a top-down, more com­plex cog­ni­tive train­ing repairs the brain faster and more exten­sive­ly.

2:34
Com­ment From mary ras­mussen
Is there any­thing new for migraine treat­ment or pre­ven­tion, espe­cial­ly for a very old lady?

2:36
Com­ment From Wendy
Is your web­site and/or book the best place to find your results from cog­ni­tive train­ing for pedi­a­tri­ac post-stroke?

2:36
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Yes, some of the mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers we’ve worked with have severe migraines and they have said learn­ing how to qui­et their mind and stop infor­ma­tion influx has been very mean­ing­ful in reduc­ing fre­quen­cy and sever­i­ty of migraines. Be sure to read chap­ter 4 in Make Your Brain Smarter to learn about the brain­pow­ers of none, one and two. Check out centerforbrainhealth.org for a sto­ry from AOL fea­tur­ing Josh Lewis, a for­mer marine who strug­gled with migraines when he returned to civil­ian life.

2:38
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Chap­ter 11 in the book dis­cuss­es regain­ing cog­ni­tive func­tion after brain injury and many arti­cles includ­ed are ref­er­enced in the book as well as on centerforbrainhealth.org.

2:39
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Peo­ple always think that it takes a long time to rewire the brain, but my team and I are doc­u­ment­ing brain changes after just hours of train­ing over one month.

2:40
AlvaroF: Let me ask my own ques­tion. Do you think health­care sys­tems and providers should be doing a bet­ter job at monitoring/ protecting/ enhanc­ing the brain and cog­ni­tion, or do you see that pri­mar­i­ly as indi­vid­u­al’s job? (I am wor­ried where we may be if 5 years if health­care does­n’t take this seri­ous­ly, pro­vid­ing valu­able help to con­sumers and patients)

2:40
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: For me, one of the sad truths is that we start los­ing cog­ni­tive capac­i­ty start­ing in our ear­ly 40s by our own actions or lack of action. That does not have to be the case! Our brain is unique­ly designed to be the most adapt­able and mod­i­fi­able organ in our entire body.

2:41
AlvaroF: Every­one: please sub­mit more ques­tions and com­ments! When you do so, please make sure not to ask for indi­vid­ual med­ical advice, but for gen­er­al thoughts on gen­er­al prob­lems based on her research and book

2:42
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Alvaro: I agree. Health­care is always far behind lead­ing edge sci­ence. We’re liv­ing longer with­out increas­ing our brain capac­i­ty and it is going to be at a great cost to the indi­vid­ual and soci­ety. That’s why I coined the term “brain­omics” to account for the high eco­nom­ic cost of lost brain­pow­er and the immense eco­nom­ic ben­e­fit of max­i­mized brain func­tion.

2:43
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: We have not even begun to test the lim­its of how far we can stretch our brain per­for­mance. The major­i­ty of us are per­form­ing in the low­er range of our per­son­al “brain zone.”

2:43
AlvaroF: Agreed. What is your best guess? Will con­sumers be bet­ter served by out­sourc­ing this to their health providers or do they need to take their own proac­tive care?

2:45
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Every­one is their own worst ene­my; we absolute­ly need to be respon­si­ble for our own brain health as it is a dai­ly respon­si­bil­i­ty that is ours to man­age that no health­care sys­tem can enforce. That is why I wrote Make Your Brain Smarter to give indi­vid­u­als a brain fit­ness plan that is action ori­ent­ed across the lifes­pan. You are nev­er too young or too old to adopt healthy brain habits. That being said, it would be nice to reward indi­vid­u­als and physi­cians for pro­mot­ing brain health fit­ness.

2:46
Com­ment From Wendy
What types of assess­ments / imag­ing do you use to deter­mine where there is cog­ni­tive injury or decline?

2:46
Com­ment From John Demand
Do you see an over depen­dance on tech­nol­o­gy, com­put­ers, cell phones, gps as detri­men­tal or dumb­ing peo­ple down?

2:48
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Wendy: I encour­age indi­vid­u­als to get brain health bench­marks so we can mea­sure, main­tain and mit­i­gate decline as soon as detect­ed. Chap­ter 3 in Make Your Brain Smarter dis­cuss­es the impor­tance of a bench­mark. At present, scans are used more for research to show change than on an indi­vid­ual basis, but that is chang­ing rapid­ly.

2:49
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: John: when peo­ple ask me if tech­nol­o­gy is good or bad for your brain, I say YES. Nobody would go back to less tech­nol­o­gy, but we need to learn how to man­age it rather than it becom­ing our biggest addic­tion that robs us of deep­er lev­el think­ing.

2:49
Com­ment From Nikhil Sri­ra­man
Dr. Chap­man, you’ve done a great deal of work with ath­letes that have expe­ri­ence brain injury, for exam­ple due to con­cus­sion on the sports field. What oppor­tu­ni­ties do you see specif­i­cal­ly for healthy ath­letes that sim­ply want to max­i­mize their men­tal game (e.g. men­tal tough­ness). Is there a large over­lap between the activ­i­ties that apply to both of these groups? Any that would apply specif­i­cal­ly for the lat­ter? For exam­ple, it’s been said that sev­er­al Cana­di­an Gold Medal­ists at the Van­cou­ver Olympics ben­e­fit­ed from mind­ful­ness train­ing.

2:52
AlvaroF: Every­one: time for your last ques­tions!

2:52
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Most of my works is with healthy peo­ple — ath­letes, war­riors, cor­po­rate exec­u­tives, teens. Max­i­miz­ing the abil­i­ty to zoom out to the big pic­ture and zoom in to focus allows indi­vid­u­als to sharp­en their men­tal edge and build cog­ni­tive resilience. Chap­ter 5 in Make Your Brain Smarter out­lines the strate­gies spe­cif­ic to this very ques­tion!

2:52
Com­ment From Steve Zanon
Hi San­dra, Thanks for the Q&A oppor­tu­ni­ty. I’m inter­est­ed in get­ting your thoughts on the biggest hur­dles asso­ci­at­ed with get­ting the great research around brain health into broad­er pub­lic use, either via influ­enc­ing gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy and/or devel­op­ing com­mer­cial ven­tures ? You men­tion eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits. How can gov­ern­ments and com­mer­cial com­pa­nies bet­ter under­stand the eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits so they are more enthu­si­as­tic to act upon it ? Wel­come any ideas you might have on this.

2:55
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Steve: that is some­thing we have to con­stant­ly be think­ing of as sci­en­tists. I’ve been instru­men­tal in writ­ing the first state plan on brain health fit­ness for the state of Texas because I believe whole­heart­ed­ly, that every year we wait to make peo­ple aware of what they them­selves can do to trans­form their brain health, we are slip­ping back­wards. Nobody wants to go back­wards in terms of their cog­ni­tive func­tion. We have to get our brain span more close­ly aligned with our lifes­pan — right now it is not even half. With­out brain health, you do not have health.

2:56
Com­ment From Jane Wash­burn
What kinds of brain activ­i­ties have you found less help­ful or dam­ag­ing to a stressed brain and what activ­i­ties are most help­ful?

2:56
Com­ment From Deane
Do you think using a brain train­ing pro­gram is bet­ter than hon­ing life skills such as learn­ing a lan­guage, play­ing an instru­ment, or cre­at­ing art?

2:56
Com­ment From Wendy
Do you have a twit­ter feed where we can fol­low the work you are doing?

2:57
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Jane: Try­ing to take in more and more infor­ma­tion and mul­ti­task­ing is dam­ag­ing to a stressed brain. For the brain, less is more!

2:58
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Deane: it is not good to do ran­dom things and be a jack-of-all-trades. You want to devel­op exper­tise to build brain­pow­er. Unless you are pas­sion­ate about a new lan­guage or instru­ment, it is a brain drain more than a brain gain. Our brain only has so much ener­gy; think­ing con­sumes ener­gy, so you have to decide what you want to spend your brain ener­gy towards that is going to make a dif­fer­ence if your life.

2:59
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Wendy: yes, you can fol­low my work on Twit­ter at @brainhealth or on Face­book at facebook.com/centerforbrainhealth

2:59
AlvaroF: San­di, may I ask what you do per­son­al­ly to “Make Your Brain Smarter”?

And what role, if any, did writ­ing such a great book play?

3:03
AlvaroF: We are wrap­ping up with Dr. Chap­man’s last answer. Thank you every­one for par­tic­i­pat­ing! You can learn more about her new book Make Your Brain Smarter.

3:03
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Great ques­tion, Alvaro! Per­son­al­ly, I dri­ve peo­ple crazy by nev­er let­ting sta­tus quo be an option; I’m con­stant­ly chang­ing and ramp­ing up what I do and push­ing my brain to think smarter, not hard­er. Con­dens­ing 30 years of research into a book across the lifes­pan, was reward­ing and inspir­ing to see how many peo­ple had low expec­ta­tions for their brain per­for­mance. When the veil was lift­ed, like for a recent Navy SEAL I worked with, he was no longer lim­it­ed in poten­tial and defined by an old label of “not smart.”

3:04
AlvaroF: “nev­er let­ting sta­tus quo be an option”

great advice 🙂

3:04
Com­ment From Julian
Dr. Chap­man I am look­ing for­ward to read your book. Maybe one day I will be able to trans­late it. Thank you Dr. Chap­man and thank you Alvaro. Great pre­sen­ta­tion.

3:05
AlvaroF: San­di and every­one: thank you for a great Q&A ses­sion! I hope the book becomes a best­seller!

3:05
AlvaroF: We cer­tain­ly need it 🙂

3:05
Dr. San­dra Bond Chap­man: Thank you for this tremen­dous oppor­tu­ni­ty. Alvaro, thank you for your deep think­ing, lead­er­ship and for inspir­ing us!

3:05
Com­ment From Wendy
Thank you for your time!!

3:05
Com­ment From Deane
Thank you! Con­sid­er me part of the brain health move­ment’. I’ll be rec­om­mend­ing your book on my web­site

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