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Sandra Chapman: Using innovative thinking, and brain training, we can rewire the brain at every level

Sandra Bond Chapman

San­dra Bond Chap­man, PhD

What is your cur­rent job title and orga­ni­za­tion, and what excites you the most about work­ing there? 
As the founder and chief direc­tor at the Cen­ter for Brain­Health at UT-Dal­las, what gets me excit­ed every day is being on the fore­front of defin­ing and encour­ag­ing cog­ni­tive brain health fit­ness for peo­ple of all ages. We are iden­ti­fy­ing mea­sures of brain health and what it takes to achieve it for healthy brains, injured brains and dis­eased brains. It is just as impor­tant to care for your brain when it is healthy as when it is dis­eased or injured.

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?
My research takes a lifes­pan approach to har­ness the pow­er of the frontal lobes to make cog­ni­tive and phys­i­o­log­i­cal improve­ments to the brain through high per­for­mance brain train­ing. Most research focus­es on what’s wrong with the brain, but when I real­ized how quick­ly we could trans­late research dis­cov­er­ies into solu­tions to help peo­ple think smarter, I knew I had to estab­lish a cen­ter to make that pos­si­ble.

What is one impor­tant thing you are work­ing on now, and where can peo­ple learn more about it?
We have just launched the Brain Per­for­mance Insti­tute, which will become the clin­i­cal arm for our research. Through the Insti­tute we will dis­sem­i­nate the val­i­dat­ed train­ing pro­grams being devel­oped at the Cen­ter for Brain­Health. We hope to reach more than 500,000 peo­ple in the next 10 years. To learn more about it, vis­it centerforbrainhealth.org. Friends of Sharp­Brains can also enjoy my my TEDx Talk and Make Your Brain Smarter book.

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?
Your brain changes every sin­gle day by how you use it. It either moves for­ward or back­ward. Tak­ing proac­tive steps to keep it healthy is an impor­tant, life long pur­suit. Your brain can begin to decline in your 20s, if you let it. But you can make your brain smarter and health­i­er in your 20s, 40s or 80s by becom­ing a more a strate­gic thinker and adopt­ing healthy brain habits.

Do not let labels like IQ, aca­d­e­m­ic degrees or class rank lim­it your high­est lev­el of brain per­for­mance. Smart is defined by being able to syn­the­size infor­ma­tion, cre­ate new ideas and inno­vate solu­tions.

Where do you see clear “low-hang­ing fruit” to enhance behav­ioral and brain health based on neu­ro­science and inno­va­tion?
Using inno­v­a­tive think­ing, we can rewire the brain at every lev­el. That’s why we are cre­at­ing high per­for­mance brain train­ing strate­gies, to bet­ter har­ness that poten­tial.

What would you like the 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit to accom­plish?
I want to find part­ners, from researchers to health exec­u­tives and entre­pre­neurs, to help move more and more peo­ple from facts to action. Learn­ing about the brain is inter­est­ing, but it is thrilling to see your brain on inno­va­tion. I hope the Sum­mit helps accel­er­ate exist­ing dri­vers for change and spark new ones, so that more peo­ple can access tools and sup­port to reach their full cog­ni­tive poten­tial and become high­er brain per­form­ers.

Final­ly, what do YOU do to stay sharp?
I try to run a mind marathon every­day. All day long, and even in my sleep, when I take infor­ma­tion in, I always syn­the­size, inno­vate and inte­grate across diverse think­ing areas. I am always on alert to avoid rote think­ing. I also make sure that I get eight hours of sleep each night and aer­o­bic exer­cise reg­u­lar­ly.

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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