Welcome to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast where we provide support for school leadership and the workplace with a proven approach for implementing social and emotional learning as it’s well-known in our schools today and emotional intelligence in the modern workplace, with a proven strategy to increase well-being, achievement and results, backed by the most current neuroscience research.
Northeastern University Professor Chuck Hillman, PhD on "The Impact of Exercise on the Brain and Learning."
Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast episode #123 with Dr. Charles Hillman, whose research and brain scans on students during his time at the University of IL (from 2000-2016) provided enough science to spearhead Naperville’s Zero-hour PE program that we’ve been covering on the past few podcast episodes (#116,[i] #118[ii], #119[iii], #121[iv], #122[v]) that put physical exercise and its impact on cognition and the brain, on the map. It was Paul Zientarski, the former PE teacher and football coach from Naperville who mentioned Dr. Chuck Hillman’s brain scan studies in our interview #121 and I thought these brain scans were so important, that I covered a deeper dive into the results of these scans on episode #122.
You can watch the interview on YouTube here.
My name is Andrea Samadi, and if you have been listening to our podcast for some time, you will know that we’ve uncovered that if we want to improve our social and emotional skills, and experience success in our work and personal lives, (in school, sports or the workplace) it all begins with an understanding of our brain. The goal of this podcast is to bring in experts, who’ve risen to the top of their field, and share their knowledge, wisdom and tips that many of us wouldn’t have access to, since this understanding of the importance of our brain and results is relatively new.
Here’s more about our guest today,
Dr. Hillman received his doctorate from the University of Maryland in 2000, and then began his career on the faculty at the University of Illinois, where he was a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health for 16 years. He continued his career at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he currently holds appointments in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement, and Rehabilitation Sciences. He co-directs the new Center for Cognitive and Brain Health[vi], which has the mission of understanding the role of health behaviors on brain and cognition to maximize health and well-being and promote the effective functioning of individuals across the lifespan. Dr. Hillman has published more than 265 refereed journal articles, 15 book chapters, and co-edited a text entitled Functional Neuroimaging in Exercise and Sport Sciences[vii].
When Paul Zientarski mentioned that it was Dr. Hillman who helped him to make up his mind about making changes to their PE program in Naperville, after he saw the scans of students’ brains after just 20 minutes of walking, I knew I had to find out if Dr. Hillman would come on the podcast.
I emailed him at Northeastern University on Saturday afternoon, and he replied early Sunday morning that he was interested helping to expand on the results he discovered through his brain scans. We had a chance to exchange some emails, pick an interview time, and that’s how simple it is when you reach out to someone who really does want to see change occur in the world. Let’s hear from Dr. Hillman.
Welcome Dr. Hillman,
Thank you so much for such an enjoyable chat Sunday morning, as were picking a time to speak. I know that time is always a factor, when I’m reaching out for the podcast, and do want to maximize our time together, so we can dive a bit deeper into the research that began when you were at the University of IL.
Q1: Dr. Hillman, I listened to a podcast that you did with a young man from the UK, Daniel Elias[viii], and I loved his introductory question to you about what it was that began your interest early in your career to study children and the impact that exercise has on their brain? Can we start with where it all began for you?
Q2: The research is clear that exercise has a significant impact on student achievement, from your work, and from the results that Naperville was able to create using your research to create
Brain Fact Friday on "Transforming the Mind Using Athletics and Neuroscience"
Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, for Brain Fact Friday and episode #122.
This week we interviewed Paul Zientarski,[i] the former PE teacher from Naperville Central High School, who reinvented physical education using the understanding of simple neuroscience. Then last week’s interview with Dr. John Ratey,[ii] and his book Spark, cemented the idea of the profound impact that exercise has on our cognitive abilities and mental health.
Paul Zientarski said many things that caught my attention in the interview and took me by surprise especially with the whole idea of their Zero Hour PE creating such noticeable results with students in the classroom, and even going on to inspire some student to become PE teachers in the future. I thought what their research uncovered at Naperville was important enough to reinforce and take a closer look at why those students at Naperville scored so high on their tests after they took this NEW Physical Education class that blended aerobic activity with an understanding of neuroscience. If you haven’t listened to Dr. Ratey’s episode #116, or Paul Zientarski on #121, be sure to go back and listen after this brain fact.
BRAIN FACT: Aerobic activity can transform not only the body, but also the mind.
Dr. Ratey said it clearly in his book Spark when he said 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).
By now we all know that exercise increases brain activity, and that the benefits of exercise “come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.”[iii]
Dr. Chuck Hillman[iv], from the University of IL (now at Northeastern University) conducted a series of brain scans on students and showed what their brain activity looked like after sitting quietly (not much color if you look at the images in the show notes) vs how vibrant the brain looks after even a 20-minute walk.
Without knowing anything about fMRI scans, one look at how the brain lights up after exercise, and we all can come to the same conclusion. “Exercise primes the brain, putting it in the right environment for learning.”
Hillman took his research a bit further, and divided students (aged 9/10) into 2 groups. Higher fit (if they could run 0.25 miles without stopping) and lower fit if they had to stop in this 0.25 mile run.
The students were asked to take a test similar to what you would find on Lumosity.com and the brains of the higher fit students lit up during the easy test, showing more red color (more brain activity) than the lower fit students. The most noticeable difference was during the difficult test, the brains of the higher fit students lit up bright red, showing the increase of brain activity they had access to, and the lower fit students just didn’t have enough brain power during the difficult test.
This study clearly shows how the power of exercise and being physically impacts our brain and cognition.
Hillman went another step further with his research and created a 9-month intervention PE program, taught by future PE teachers.
Half of the students had an hour of PE prior to their school day, and half didn’t attend the PE program. They went straight to school (they called them the wait list group).
The brain scans of the one-hour PE group showed a significant increase of brain activity compared to the students who did not take this extra hour of PE each day.
If you are listening to this podcast, I am sure that this will get you
Naperville Central High School's Paul Zeintarski on "Transforming Students Using Physical Education and Neuroscience"
Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, episode #121 with the former PE teacher from Naperville, IL, Paul Zientarski.
Watch the interview on YouTube here.
Hello and Welcome back! I’m Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with learning the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace, for the past 20 years. If you have been listening to our podcast for some time, you will know that we’ve uncovered that if we want to improve our social and emotional skills, and experience success in our work and personal lives, it all begins with putting our brain health first. We’ve mentioned that exercise is one of the top 5 health staples that’s a known brain-health and Alzheimer’s prevention strategy, from our episode #87[i] helping us to take our results, productivity and health to these higher levels. Ever since I came across John J Ratey’s book Spark[ii], I have been drawn in, wanting to learn more, so that I can share his research you, with the hope that something he has uncovered, inspires you, like it inspired me, and that together, we make improvements, even small ones, in our lives, that lean us closer towards the health and wellness that we need these days.
Today, I am so excited to introduce you to Paul Zientarski, the physical education coordinator from Naperville’s Central High School as well as the football coach who worked closely with Phil Lawler to attain the profound results that put Naperville on the map for outstanding academic achievement with their Zero Hour PE Program. John Ratey described Paul Zientarksi in Spark as “a grey-haired furnace of a man with steady eyes and a fact-is fact delivery with the presence of Mike Ditka and Bill Parcells rolled into one figure of authority.”(Spark, Page 18). This paints the picture of one tough coach, with high expectations and no room for messing around. I have worked with a couple of PE teachers who had this same reputation in the toughest schools in the West end of Toronto, and found that there was always a softer side to this tough exterior, that I felt when I watched Mr. Zientarski’s TED TALK.[iii] You can see for yourself or go to his website where you can learn more about his Learning Readiness PE Program[iv] that reveals the passion he has for his students to learn, and be healthy at the same time.
What excites me the most as I am preparing my interview questions for coach, they called Mr. Z, is that not only did he have the vision for what he expected of his team, school and players, but that he had the vision of the “Smart Jock” back then, before everyone was talking about the importance of neuroscience in the classroom. Dr. Ratey recalled saying that when he first met Mr. Z, he was shocked that he heard these coaches saying things he never expected coaches to be saying. He quoted Mr. Z saying, “In our department, we create the brain cells, and it’s up to the other teachers to fill them” (Spark, Page 19) with regards to their academics.
I’ve thought long and hard about the questions I want to ask Paul Zientarski, whose presence has been described as that of “a seasoned U-boat commander” (Spark, Page 22) with the hopes that something he says, lights a Spark for the listener, to do something, take some action, using the immense wisdom that transformed Naperville’s well-oiled PE Program.
Let’s hear from Mr. Z!
Welcome Paul Zientarski! What an honor to have this opportunity to speak with you. Thank you very much for joining me on the podcast today. What part of the country have we reached you today?
Q1: Paul, can you take us back to when Phil Lawler[v] (who I was sorry to see lost his battle with Cancer in April, 2010) first came to you with this idea for this new PE program. Dr. Ratey said that it took the longest time to convince you. Wha
Personal Review of the Fisher Wallace Wearable Medical Device for Anxiety, Depression and Sleep/Stress Management.
Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, episode #120 with a review and my experience using of the Fisher Wallace Brain Stimulator from episode #108 with Kelly Roman.
REVISION ADDED APRIL 5th/2021 at 9:58 marker with TIPS from Kelly Roman, Fisher Wallace Co-founder and CEO.
You will learn:✔︎ What to expect if you want to try the Fisher Wallace Brain Stimulator to improve your sleep, anxiety or mood.✔︎ How Andrea Samadi measured and tracked her sleep, using the FitBit App, and improved her sleep from getting around 5 hours and 28 minutes in her baseline week to hitting close to 7 hours of sleep in her final days of the trial.✔︎ How you can try the Fisher Wallace Brain Stimulator for Improved Sleep, Reduced Anxiety or Depression.Access past episodes here: https://lnkd.in/grfaE7y
Hello and Welcome back! I’m Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with learning the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace, for the past 20 years. If you have been listening to our podcast for some time, you will know that we’ve uncovered that if we want to improve our social and emotional skills, and experience success in our work and personal lives, it all begins with putting our brain health first. We’ve mentioned that sleep is one of the top 5 health staples that’s a known brain-health and Alzheimer’s prevention strategy, from our episode #87[i] helping us to take our results, productivity and health to these higher levels, so when I had the opportunity to improve my sleep, I jumped on the chance, with the hopes that with what I learn from my experience, could help you, or someone you know who might be struggling with getting enough sleep each night. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hear someone in my network mention that they are working on improving their sleep.
If you want to hear the episode with Kelly Roman[ii], the CEO of Fisher Wallace Labs and their wearable medical devices to help improve sleep, while also treating anxiety and depression, go back and listen to episode #108. After this interview with Kelly Roman last February of 2021, I shared with him that my brain scan at Amen Clinics (in July 2020)[iii] showed what Dr. Shane Creado felt my brain showed signs of sleep deprivation, and Kelly graciously offered to send me one of the devices/paired with a Fitbit see if we could improve my sleep. I accepted the offer and promised to take the month-long trial seriously. It’s just a few days after the end of the month, and the results are in.
But first, if you’re interested in this device, contact Fisher Wallace Labs[iv] at www.fisherwallace.com or by calling 1-800-692-4380. For just under $500 (they show a discount on their website when I last checked) you will be mailed a kit with the simulator, electrode headset, Velcro headband, sponges, carry case, manual, and shipping label. The Fitbit is separate if you want to measure your results like I did, and something you can purchase on your own. They offer a 30-day Refund Policy.
There are videos that you can watch that show you how to use the device right on their website.[v] When I received the Fisher Wallace device, it came quickly, via Fedex, and was simple and easy to set up, after I watched a video through their website.
Here’s what I learned:
Before doing the month-long trial of wearing the device, Kelly suggested getting a baseline for my sleep, and measure at least 3 days without using the device, to see the quality and quantity of sleep beforehand. I wanted to get the most accurate reading of how I was sleeping before I tested the device, so I did everything I knew would help my sleep like eliminating alcohol one week prior and during the baseline so I knew it wouldn’t interfere and setting the stage for a good night sleep each night.
Brain Fact Friday on "The Key Ingredients of Learning with the Brain in Mind."
Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, for Brain Fact Friday and episode #119.
Hello and Welcome back! I’m Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with learning the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace, for the past 20 years. If you have been listening to our podcast for some time, you will know that we’ve uncovered that if we want to improve our social and emotional skills, and experience success in our work and personal lives, it all begins with putting our brain health first. As I am working closely with neuroscience researcher, Mark Robert Waldman, and learning new ideas that could help improve results for students in our classrooms, or those in the corporate world, I will share with you what I am learning, with the hopes you can implement the new idea in your life, for immediate, improved results.
This week’s brain fact goes right along with the past few episodes where we have been talking about the profound impact that exercise has on our cognitive abilities and mental health. Dr. Daniel Amen, (who we’ve talked a lot about on past episodes) and Dr. John J Ratey would both agree that it’s “simply one of the best treatments we have for most psychiatric problems.”[i]
Instead of just one brain fact about the importance of exercise on our brain, I have a few-- to really hit the importance of this brain fact home.
Here are Your Brain Facts for This Week: Did You Know That:
“Physical activity is crucial to the way we think and feel.” (John J Ratey, MD).
“Children who exercise regularly are likely to do the same as an adult.” (Spark, Page 12)
“Statistics show that about half of those who start out with a new exercise routine drop out within six months to a year” (Spark, Page 260) probably because they jump in at a high intensity, it’s too much, and they give up.
If you have heard our past 2 episodes, you will know that Dr. Ratey wrote the book Spark on this topic after he saw Naperville’s scores on the 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 they 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)
Dr. Daniel Amen often talks about the importance of exercise, or walking 5 days a week, like you are late (he would say) for your brain health. He mentions that “blood vessels age, not your brain cells”[ii] and the best way to keep blood vessels healthy so blood flows to your brain, is with moderate exercise.
So for such an important brain fact, that two of the most famous brain experts I know, have focused most of their careers teaching the world about, why isn’t everyone taking advantage of this profound impact of exercise on the brain—for our students in our classrooms and for everyone in the workplace looking for increased productivity.
It All Begins With Understanding How Our Brain Works
Most us have not had the crash course in this topic. Since we know that our brain is involved in everything that we are and everything that we do, it’s important that we understand how it works, especially when it comes to making habits (like implementing a new exercise program) stick.
I was speaking with Victoria Sambursky this week (she is working closely with Dr. Ratey with her company Edominance)[iii] with assessments that unlock personality and behavior, and she was asking me about the best way to break a habit. I shared with her what I cover on episode #35 on “Using Your Brain to Break Bad Habits”[iv] since what we must do to break a habit is the exact opposite of what we must do when forming our new habit, lik
Deep Dive into Best-Selling Author John J. Ratey's Books "Spark, Go Wild and Driven to Distraction."
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 re
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Every Leader Needs This
First off, let me say… although this podcast is about neuroscience, Andrea curates the show to be applicable and easily understood by anyone! Not just the neuroscientists. As a CEO and Executive Trainer, I found that Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning provides actionable tips to build resilience, recharge your energy, and face challenging workplace situations. Andrea guides guests to the conversations that matter by asking the right questions. I have studied applied neuroscience in the past, and I find that Andrea's show consistently brings up new angles that no one talks about. Give it a listen and you won't be disappointed!
Amazing Show if you want to learn about Neuroscience
Andrea does a great job of bringing on experts of neuroscience and pulling information from that that is actionable and useable. Highly suggest giving her show a listen and subscribe for future episodes. Keep us the great work Andrea!
Program your brain to work for you, not against you!
We can train and shape our brains to handle emotional and social experiences in a way that best supports the life we want to have - less stress, more resiliency, and the ability to pull positive out of almost any experience.
Andrea Samadi has a wide range of expertise in using proven neuroscience techniques to help us shape our brains. Imagine what we'd be capable of knowing these things early in life! Andrea's mission to bring this knowledge to school children has the potential to make a massive impact on our world.
She also strives to introduce and master these techniques in business environments to improve productivity and develop inspired teams that strive for growth and symbiosis. I highly recommend checking out her podcast to make your own life, your business life, and your children's lives, less stressful, more enjoyable and productive.