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

Posted Jan 04 2013 3:47pm

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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