June 7, 2012

Brain Stickiness

There is no teflon in the house, but there is teflon in the brains that come here to work with me.


My friend told me this week, while I gushed over new strategies on the forefront of the marriage of pharmacology, and alternative modalities, I learned at an ADD Conference last Saturday, that I need to come back in the next lifetime as a brain researcher. I have come to trust medication more than I would have ever predicted, yet I grow more MIStrustful of "Big Pharma."


"But I don't trust the AMA,", I responded, "because doctors only have, like 16 hours of credits on nutrition, and maybe 12 on stress and the body-mind connection, PLUS they have not healed me as much as my own brain and bodywork have." 
"Well", she said, "that is why they need you."


I have been watching TED Talks lately, because they have short time frames for my short sometimes attention span, uber smart people, yet not ones who live in a laboratory and never see daylight or controversial conversations, plus TED is the place I would speak about ADHD, brain health, schools for LD kids, academic skill-building in the ideal setting, and how to coach a kid who hates reading and writing, if I only knew the right "TED" people.


I tried the Seattle area TED Talks with no response. I am fighting my beliefs that I do not have enough degrees, or that I have too many wrinkles, to keep pursuing this goal. I seems you must present some newfangled idea, creative, original, and life-changing, to qualify. Nothing like a high bar to reduce me to inertia. Just like my kids I tutor! So I will practice what I preach, not give up, and keep searching for what it takes to present. I probably need to really practice what I teach, and "narrow my topic."


I said today to one of my 8-year-olds, "Maybe we could create a scrapbook of your summer trip and you could write little captions." Oh No. That did not go over like it did with my 11-year old girl who did that last summer. She took it and ran with it, practicing starting sentences with interesting beginnings. Instead, for him, it was like presenting a "high bar."
Or
"Let's aim for writing great 5-paragraph essays this school year!" Students are eavesdropping on this goal-setting brainstorm in my living room, while I talk to their parent, usually a mom, and meanwhile, their handwriting, grammar, spelling, keyboarding, thesaurus use, sentence length, and sense of organization is paltry. I calmly reassure them, in my most Glenda the Good Witch voice, that we will work just on sentences for a long time and then only when they are ready, essays. Gosh, I know of NO child or teen who lights up when that word is spoken. And then I deliver the hypocritical news, when they tell of some daunting assignment, like writing about why their school is the best, and give THREE reasons grade, that 5-paragraph essays are not how most magazines or newspapers are actually written.


Speaking of entrenched beliefs, I listened to a talk tonight by Joe Dispenzia, who is an articulate geek who makes sense of the chemicals in the brain, and motivation, learning, and habits. Nothing trivial there. The limbic brain, or mammalian brain, or emotional brain, regulates "internal chemical order." Of course, if the frontal cortex is compromised, as in anxiety-ridden, ADHD-ers, or traumatized people or children, there is less of a dance step integration possible. I just could not help think of my struggling writers, and whether changing their thinking could incur tangible changes in their output and flow. 


My current belief is that the "stickiness' of one's brain is directly related to how healthy the nutrients you put in are, plus the dopamine, plus the amount of explicit instruction you get, and much more. 


Changing Your Brain: The 3 Brains that Allow us to go from Thinking, to Doing, to Being


Oh Yeah! I am supposed to place bullet points in my post in order to follow the rules of BLOGGING! I always forget.

  • Nerve cells that fire together wire together. 
  • If learning is making new synaptic connections, then remembering is maintaining and sustaining those connections. 
  • Warning: Many moving images of dendrites and synapses in the youtube video. Kidding.

Love the resources on his website. Who can argue with the Meditation called, "Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself?"


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