Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning

Deep Dive into Best-Selling Author John J. Ratey’s Books “Spark, Go Wild and Driven to Distraction.”

March 31, 2021

Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #118 with a deep dive into John J. Ratey’s most recent books including the groundbreaking ADHD “Driven to Distraction” with Dr. Edward (Ned) Hallowell, MD, "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" that established Dr. Ratey as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the brain-fitness connection and “Go Wild”, that explores how we can achieve optimal physical and mental health by getting in touch with our roots.

During our interview together on EPISODE #116[i], we barely scratched the surface of these three books, so I wanted to take the time to dive a bit deeper into each one of them, keeping in mind the top 5 health staples that we focused on with episode #87.[ii] Dr. Ratey’s interview was insightful and many people from around the world emailed me with feedback about how timely and inspiring they thought Dr. Ratey’s research was, especially with where we are in the world today.

Dr. Ratey said himself, “If we are going to have to learn to live with COVID, we’re going to have to learn to be well.” (Episode #116) and I thought about how our podcast took a turn from just focusing on social and emotional skills and neuroscience to a serious focus on the importance of health, around Season 3 and episode #71 (which was July 2020-right in the middle of the Pandemic) when I first started to study Dr. Shane Creado, from Dr. Daniel Amen’s offices on the importance of sleep[iii].  It seems to me that we can’t ask our students in our classrooms, or employees in our workplaces to focus on social, interpersonal, emotional or cognitive skills, without first, putting an emphasis on health. The more I Iearned in this area, the more convinced I became of the mind-brain-body connection that inspired me to take a trip to Dr. Amen’s Clinics in Costa Mesa, CA for a brain scan to see what we could learn to improve the health of my family and share these findings on the podcast.

After the 3 episodes where I covered the importance of getting your brain scanned,[iv] there was one person who was integral to me meeting new people in the area of health and wellness and that was Luke DePron, the host of the Live Great Lifestyle Podcast[v] from episode #90.[vi] Luke and I became friends through LinkedIn, and I immediately asked if he would come on the podcast as a guest.  Although health is my number one value, and something I block time off each day for, I knew there was so much more that I needed to learn in this area.  We only know what we know, and after looking at Luke’s podcast, I was blown away. I highly recommend going to his website[vii] and looking thorough his episodes. I knew there was so much more I needed to learn in this area, and you will find many different topics that go really deep into the area of health and wellness through Luke’s podcast. After an incredible interview, it was Luke DePron who referred me to Dr. Erik Won and the Wave Neuroscience Team for episode #89[viii], Momo Vuyisich, from episode #93.[ix] and Dr. Daniel Stickler, for episode #96.[x] All of these interviews stretched me to think beyond what I knew before in the area of health and wellness and Luke’s podcast helped me to do this.

Then, around September of 2020, after watching Dr. David Perlmutter’s Alzheimer’s: The Science of Prevention Series[xi], I began thinking of who I could get to fill in interviews to cover these top 5 health staples that kept appearing everywhere.

I knew I could ask Dr. Shane Creado[xii] to cover the importance of sleep, but I had no idea that he would urge me and my husband to get our brains scanned through Amen Clinics and lead us to a whole new level of understanding of our health. Jason Whittrock from episode #94[xiii] was someone I had followed for a few years on social media, and he really left the impression on me that he was there to help people to get in shape and stay in shape. He just seemed genuine, so I sent him a message through Instagram for the interview, he replied, and before I knew it, he wrote back, and our interview was set. I had the top 5 health staples covered.

Now that you see how we found the importance of health and wellness on our podcast, you will see why I dropped everything I was doing when I saw Dr. Ratey’s book “Spark” that focused on getting kids hooked on moving instead of sitting in front of the television or their computers or iPads. If exercise and nutrition could be important for adults, anti-aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention, what could it possibly do for our students?

Here’s what I learned:

Top Lesson Learned from Spark[xiv]

LESSON 1: EXERCISE: The Impact of Physical Activity on Academic Achievement: Dr. Ratey wrote the book Spark after he saw Naperville’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) where they scored #1 in science and #6 in math, in the world, proving that there was something unique that Naperville had discovered with the correlation of exercise and academic achievement.  Naperville provided a powerful case study that “aerobic activity can transform not only the body, but also the mind.” (Spark, Page 19)

What was being taught at Naperville that was so unique was a lifestyle. They were teaching fitness instead of sports with a program called Zero Hour PE that was “supported by emerging research showing that physical activity sparks biological changes that encourage brain cells to bind to one another. For the brain to learn, these connections must be made; they reflect the brain’s fundamental ability to adapt to challenges. The more neuroscientists discover about this process, the clearer it becomes that exercise provides an unparalleled stimulus, creating an environment in which the brain is ready, willing, and able to learn.” (Spark, Page, Page 10).

What I loved about what they discovered at Naperville with their Zero Hour PE that “prepared students to learn through vigorous exercise” (Spark, Page 11) was that they created life-long habits for choosing exercise as a stress-management tool in college and beyond.

Implementing the Zero Hour PE in Your Life

Whether you are an educator working in the classroom, or an employee working in the corporate world, this concept can be easily implemented to get you into a state of heightened awareness before learning, or before you need to sit and work for long periods of time at your desk.

I will be interviewing Paul Zientarski, who worked closely with Naperville’s study through his work in PE at the high school, next week, and he does have clear ideas on how to implement a program like Naperville’s with his Learning readiness PE Program[xv], but until then, think of ways that you could encourage students to get this aerobic activity before class, or what types of programs could you set up in the workplace to encourage high impact aerobic activity before the workday begins.

It’s clear that “aerobic activity has a dramatic effect on adaptation, regulating systems that might be out of balance and optimizing those that are not—it’s an indispensable tool for anyone who wants to reach his or her full potential.” (Spark, Page 10).

Top Lesson Learned from Go Wild[xvi]

There were many lessons in Go Wild that were important, that stemmed from the fact that we must understand that “our happiness is greatly dependent on our biological well-being” but the one I picked out was focused on sleep, since it’s one of the top 5 health staples that we’ve been talking about the past few months.

LESSON 2: THE OBESITY/SLEEP CONNECTION

“Put college students on four hours of sleep a night, and then give them a glucose tolerance test, and they look prediabetic[xvii] (meaning they have a higher-than-normal blood sugar level). Food consumption goes up.” (Go Wild, Page 127)

This explains insulin resistance, (which is when cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood as energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up)[xviii] provoked solely by lack of sleep.

Obesity and sleep loss have long been associated, but the research has finally found out why.  “Researchers based at the University of Colorado found that sleep deprivation did indeed show a marked increase in weight gain, even with no measurable decline in activity or in energy expenditure. Instead, the experience disrupted the body’s signaling pathways associated with the insulin response, particularly a set of hormones that signal satiety: ghrelin, leptin, and peptide YY. As a result, people ate more—especially women, especially in the evening.” (Go Wild, Page 127).

The connection between sleep and weight loss is something I also heard from the CEO of Fisher Wallace Laboratories Kelly Roman, on episode #108 on “Wearable Medical Devices for Anxiety, Depression and Sleep/Stress Management”[xix] and Dr. Daniel Stickler from episode #96[xx].

Implementing this Knowledge in Our Daily Life: How Can You Improve Your Sleep?

Now has never been a better time for all of us to take our sleep seriously. I have just spent the last month measuring my sleep, using the Fisher Wallace Sleep Device, and plan to release my results next week that will help all of us learn new ways to improve our sleep, but until then, I recommend going back to some of our podcasts that dive deep into the importance of sleep, like episode #71 on Self-Regulation and Sleep with a Deep Dive into Dr. Shane Creado’s “Peak Sleep Performance for Athletes”[xxi] or episode #85 with Dr. Sarah McKay on “High Performing Brain Health Strategies that We Should All Know About and Implement.”[xxii]

Top Lesson Learned from Driven to Distraction[xxiii]

LESSON 3: ADD/ADHD: How to Get the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder

Driven to Distraction was first released in 1994, and Dr. Ratey was worried that people would think the book had to do with driving, instead of understanding Attention Deficit Disorder. This first book went on to sell over a million copies and “sparked” an understanding of this “neurological disorder that causes a range of behavior problems such as having trouble focusing on school or work, following instructions, completing tasks as well as difficulties with impulse control and appropriate social interactions.”[xxiv]

I had no idea that “15 million people (in the USA) have (ADD/ADHD), both children and adults.” (Driven to Distraction, Page 432) and it made me think back to my visit to Dr. Amen’s Clinic for my brain scan and the X test that we had to do before our scan to test for ADD.

If you listened to part 3 of the brain scan series, where I gave the results of my brain scan, I mention the X test we had to take that was designed to identify whether someone has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or not. I also mention actress Laura Clery’s SPECT SCAN results that showed she clearly had ADD.[xxv]

Implementing This Knowledge in Your Daily Life? Do YOU Have ADD?

If you are listening to this episode, and wonder if your short attention span, distractibility, or procrastination could be ADD, there is a test that you can do right now that can help guide you towards some answers. This online test is through Amen Clinics and wasn’t far off from some of the pre-brain scan testing we had to do. If you would like to learn more about yourself, take this test and see what you learn.[xxvi] You can take this 4 minute test, and learn if you have it or not, and you will receive tips on what you can do about it.

This, coupled with Dr. Ratey’s book, Driven to Distraction, will provide you with the understanding and strategies you will need to learn how to gain some control back in your life.

Just to review:

LESSON 1: EXERCISE: The Impact of Physical Activity on Academic Achievement:

LESSON 2: THE OBESITY/SLEEP CONNECTION: Improving Health by Improving Sleep

LESSON 3: ADD/ADHD: How to Get the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder

These 3 lessons all tie back into the TOP 5 health staples (sleep and exercise) and we’ve added a new one with the understanding of ADD/ADHD that is one of the most misunderstood illnesses today. The more we can learn about our health and well-being, the better prepared we can be to become proactive with our life, health and future.

Some wise words from John J Ratey to end this episode:

“Getting older is unavoidable, but falling apart is not.” John J Ratey

I hope this episode will Spark an interest in you to read Dr. Ratey’s books, so that you can take his wisdom and apply it to your life for improved results.

See you on Friday for our next Brain Fact Friday episode.

REFERENCES:

[i] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast Episode #116 with John J Ratey, MD on “The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/best-selling-author-john-j-ratey-md-on-the-revolutionary-new-science-of-exercise-and-the-brain/

[ii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #87 with Andrea Samadi on “The Top 5 Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies”  https://www.achieveit360.com/the-top-5-brain-health-and-alzheimers-prevention-strategies-with-andrea-samadi/  

[iii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast Episode #72 with Andrea Samadi “Deep Dive into Shane Creado’s Peak Sleep Performance for Athletes” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/self-regulation-and-sleep-with-a-deep-dive-into-dr-shane-creados-peak-sleep-performance-for-athletes/

[iv] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast Episodes #82, #83 #84 https://www.achieveit360.com/how-a-brain-scan-changed-my-brain-and-life-with-doug-sutton/

https://www.achieveit360.com/what-is-a-spect-imaging-brain-scan-and-how-exactly-can-it-change-your-life-with-andrea-samadi-part-2/

https://www.achieveit360.com/how-a-spect-scan-can-change-your-life-part-3-with-andrea-samadi/

[v] Luke DePron, Live Great Lifestyle Podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-great-lifestyle/id1375402072

[vi] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #90 with Luke DePron on “Neuroscience, Health, Fitness and Growth.” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/host-of-the-live-great-lifestyle-podcast-luke-depron-on-neuroscience-health-fitness-and-growth/

[vii] https://www.livegreatlifestyle.com/podcast/

[viii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #89 with the President of Wave Neuroscience Dr. Erik Won on “Ground-Breaking Technology That is Changing the Future of Mental Health” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/president-of-wave-neuroscience-dr-erik-won-on-ground-breaking-technology-that-is-changing-the-future-of-mental-health/

[ix] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast #93 with Dr. Momo Vuyisich on “Improving the Health of Your Microbiome, Preventing and Reversing Chronic Disease.”  https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/dr-momo-vuyisich-on-improving-the-health-of-your-microbiome-preventing-and-reversing-chronic-disease/

[x] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast #96 with Dr. Daniel Stickler on “Expanding Awareness for Limitless Peak Performance, Health, Longevity and Intelligence.” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/dr-daniel-stickler-on-expanding-awareness-for-limitless-peak-performance-health-longevity-and-intelligence/

[xi] Dr. David Perlmutter’s Science of Prevention Series https://www.drperlmutter.com/alzheimers-the-science-of-prevention-2020-air-dates/

[xii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #72 with Dr. Shane Creado on “Sleep Strategies That Will Guarantee a Competitive Advantage.”   https://www.achieveit360.com/dr-shane-creado-on-sleep-strategies-that-will-guarantee-a-competitive-advantage/

[xiii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #94 with Jason Whittrock on “Nutrition, Intermittent Fasting and the Ketogenic Diet” https://www.achieveit360.com/personal-trainer-and-fitness-model-jason-wittrock-on-nutrition-intermittent-fasting-and-the-ketogenic-diet/

[xiv] Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey, MD (January 10, 2008) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D7GQ887/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

[xv] Paul Zientarski (Naperville) and his Learning Readiness PE Program https://learningreadinesspe.com/

[xvi] Go Wild: Eat fat, Run Free, Be Social, and Follow Evolution’s Other Rules for Total Health and Well-Being by John J. Ratey, MD and Richard Manning (June 3, 2014) https://www.amazon.com/Go-Wild-Free-Afflictions-Civilization-ebook/dp/B00FPQA66C

[xvii] https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html

[xviii] https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/insulin-resistance-syndrome

[xix] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #108 with Kelly Roman on “Wearable Medical Devices for Anxiety, Depression and Sleep/Stress Management.” https://www.achieveit360.com/ceo-of-fisher-wallace-laboratories-kelly-roman-on-wearable-medical-devices-for-anxiety-depression-and-sleep-stress-management/

[xx] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast #96 with Dr. Daniel Stickler on “Expanding Awareness for Limitless Peak Performance, Health, Longevity and Intelligence.” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/dr-daniel-stickler-on-expanding-awareness-for-limitless-peak-performance-health-longevity-and-intelligence/

[xxi] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #71 on a Deep Dive into Dr. Shane Creado’s “Peak Sleep Performance for Athletes” https://www.achieveit360.com/self-regulation-and-sleep-with-a-deep-dive-into-dr-shane-creados-peak-sleep-performance-for-athletes/

[xxii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #85 with Dr. Sarah McKay on “High Performing Brain Health Strategies that We Should All Know About and Implement.” https://www.achieveit360.com/neuroscientist-dr-sarah-mckay-on-high-performing-brain-health-strategies-that-we-should-all-know-about-and-implement/

[xxiii] Driven to Distraction Revised: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood through Adulthood by Edward M Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey MD. September 13, 2011. https://www.amazon.com/Driven-Distraction-Revised-Recognizing-Attention/dp/0307743152

[xxiv] What is Attention Deficit Disorder by Dr. Daniel Amen https://www.amenclinics.com/conditions/adhd-add/

[xxv] Actress Laura Clery SPECT Scan Results with Dr. Amen https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3472842882747938 (start video at 4 minutes where she arrives at Dr. Amen’s Clinic).

[xxvi] ADD Test by Amen Clinics https://addtypetest.com/

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