Exercise Promotes Brain Plasticity (BSP 111)

John Ratey, MD
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According to psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey the best way to improve brain plasticity is by exercise.  I spoke to him shortly after he published his best-seller Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008). He commented that even compared to drugs "Exercise is the champ."

Download BSP 111

Since then Dr. Ratey has been traveling the world promoting the value of exercise for people of all ages, but his main focus has been on young people and on trying to restore and invigorate physical education programs in the schools. In Spark he provided some of the preliminary evidence that vigorous exercise promotes better academic performance, but that evidence had continued to mount.

Besides improving academic performance regular exercise also helps over all mental health. Exercise is especially effective for problems like depression and ADHD. Our brains rely on a complex mixture of neuroactive chemicals (neurotransmitters, etc.), but since our understanding of these is still very primitive, treatment with drugs can be unpredictable. Dr. Ratey feels that medications can be an important part of treating problems like ADHD, but that exercise should be included as an essential element.

Of course, even those of us who don't struggle with mental illnes are concerned with keeping our brains healthy as we age. Here again Dr. Ratey argues that exercise is essential. He speculates that exercise tricks your brain "into thinking that you're younger and that you still need to grow, as opposed to being stationary and having atrophy occur." Also, when you keep on learning (new things) your brain continues to respond and build new pathways. This is very similar to what Dr. Michael Merzenich (one of the pioneers of brain plasticity) told us in BSP 105.

Dr. Ratey is working on a new book that will be an update on the science that has been done since Spark was published, but his 2008 interview remains one of my favorites. That's why I just released an updated version of this interview as BSP 111. 

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  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

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John Ratey, MD Discusses ADD (BSP 45)

John J. Ratey, M.D.

Have you ever wondered why a child with ADD can play videos games for hours, but can't concentrate on his homework for a few minutes?  This is one of the paradoxes of attention-deficit disorder that John J Ratey, MD, co-author of, Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood, explains in Episode 45 of the Brain Science Podcast.

During this interview, Dr. Ratey discusses the latest findings about the biological basis of what he calls "attention variability disorder."  He also offers practical advice for patients and parents dealing with ADD/ADHD.  One very important, and somewhat surprising, fact that he shares is that patients who are treated with medications during adolescence have a significantly lower risk of developing problems with addiction and drug abuse later on compared to those who are not treated.  Also, successful "ADD-ers" like Michael Phelps show that "having a mission" makes a huge difference.

Dr. Ratey's most recent book is Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, which he discussed with me (Dr. Campbell) in Episode 33.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Detailed Show Notes

Topics discussed:

  • Why our current cyber-culture  exacerbates symptoms.
  • The genetic component.
  • The role of dopamine and epinephrine.
  • The relationship between ADD and addiction.
  • Why ADD effects all the brain systems including memory.
  • The importance of strengthening executive (frontal lobe) function.

Successful people with ADD:

  • Michael Phelps-winner of 8 Gold Medals for Swimming in 2008 Olympics.
  • Rick Warren-founder of The Purpose Driven Church.

Practical Advice:

  • the need for a mission.
  • environmental changes.
  • the role of meditation and exercise.
  • why stimulant medication helps.
  • training the cerebellum.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Dr. Ratey recommends OmegaBrite™).

Links:

Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com

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Exercise and the Brain (BSP 33)

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John J. Ratey, M.D.

Episode 33 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Harvard physician, Dr. John Ratey, about his new book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

We explore the exciting evidence about how exercise helps the brain.  It stimulates the release of a number of different neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, but probably more importantly, it helps keeps these compounds balanced.  We consider why exercise is so important in dealing with stress, in treating a wide range of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.  There is also evidence that exercise improves our ability to learn and our ability to avoid the loss of mental agility associated with aging.

We explore the exciting evidence about how exercise helps the brain.  It stimulates the release of a number of different neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, but probably more importantly, it helps keeps these compounds balanced.  We consider why exercise is so important in dealing with stress, in treating a wide range of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.  There is also evidence that exercise improves our ability to learn and our ability to avoid the loss of mental agility associated with aging.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE. All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

This episode contains information that everyone can use.  I hope you will share it with your friends and family.

Links and References:

 

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