Educators educating Educators

Sep 23

John Ratey


John Ratey, M. D.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Author

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008)

A User’s Guide to the Brain (2002)

Co-author

Delivered from Distraction; Getting the Most Out of Life with ADD (2005)

Driven to Distraction (1994)

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“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” ~ Plato

John Ratey ~ Spark

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“IDEAS ARE LIKE FLUTING BUTTERFLIES. WHEN I AM FOCUSED MY AD/HD IS UNDER CONTROL, AND I CAN CATCH THEM WITH A NET.”

“IT IS LIKE I HAVE A MILLION VOICES IN MY HEAD.”

Former patients of John Ratey

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“People with AD/HD are Prisoners of the Present.” ~ John Ratey

AD/HD is a behavioral phenomenon, not a cognitive disorder

Diagnosis is based on behavior, not cognitive abilities

Inattention is an inability to inhibit interest in unimportant stimuli and motor impulses

Hyper focus is a common trait of people with AD/HD, completely absorbed in what they are doing

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AD/HD is not a deficit, but an inability to direct attention or to focus on a command

AD/HD is a malfunction of the brain’s attention system

People with AD/HD describe their attention system as patchy, discontinuous, fragmented, and uncoordinated

AD/HD affects about 4% of American adults, 13 million people

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AD/HD is a malfunction of the brain’s attention system composed of arousal, motivation, reward, executive function, and movement

The attention system is a diffused network linking neurons that connect with the areas of the brain controlling arousal, motivation, reward, executive function, movement, and even social skills

Research indicates overlap between attention, consciousness, and movement

Regulated by norepinephrine & dopamine

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Attention System is a diffused web of reciprocal pathways.” ~ John Ratey

The Attention Pathways consists of the

~ Arousal center – the Locus Coeruleus

~ Reward center – the Nucleus Accumbens

~ Limbic system – the Anterior Cingulate & the Amygdala

~ Attention Center - Prefrontal Cortex

~ Cerebellum -governs balance and fluidity

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The Arousal Center - The Locus Coeruleus

The Arousal Center is part of the brain stem

Attention system begins at the locus coeruleus

It sends signals throughout the brain to wake it up and cue our attention

It is the On-Off switch for sleep, closely tied to circadian rhythms

Abnormal sleep patterns is a common symptom in people with AD/HAD

Problems going to sleep or staying awake

Suffer from sleep disturbances such as sleepwalking, sleep talking, and nightmares

Produces norepinephrine

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The Rewards Center - The Nucleus Accumbens

The Reward Center is the nucleus accumbens

Stimulants Ritalin, Adderall end up here, and other active agents in coffee, chocolate, and cocaine

The reward center needs to be sufficiently activated before telling the Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC) that something is worth paying attention to

Engages the prioritizing aspect of the executive function, which is the central component of motivation

The brain will not do much unless the reward center is responsive

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The Rewards Center - The Nucleus Accumbens (continued)

Monkeys with damage (lesions) in the nucleus accumbens cannot sustain attention, cannot muster the motivation to perform tasks that do not carry immediate rewards

Same with people with AD/HD, who favor immediate gratification over mundane tasks

THEY ARE “PRISONERS OF THE PRESENT.” THEY CAN’T MAINTAIN FOCUS ON A LONG-TERM GOAL, AND SO IT SEEMS THEY LACK DRIVE

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The Limbic System - The Amygdala & The Anterior Cingulate

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The Limbic System - The Amygdala

AMYGDALA IS THE INTENSITY BUTTON OF THE BRAIN

IT IS THE PANIC BUTTON, THE ANGER BUTTON, AND THE FLIGHT-OR-FLIGHT BUTTON

Dopamine (Reward) & Norepinephrine act here and throughout the system

The amygdala is part of the limbic system, assigns emotional intensity & content to incoming stimuli before we are conscious of it, then sends the signal for higher processing

It DETERMINES THE “NOTICEABLILITY” OF THINGS

If unregulated, then tantrums, blind aggression, oversensitivity to excitement, and can lead to manic attacks

But the amygdala can be a positive; people with AD/HD can be so enthusiastic, they can energize a whole room

AD/HD is not just about inhibition but also about too much response to a situation

Anxiety is a hyperactive Amygdala; its response is too intense

It gets jazzed too quickly, over responsiveness, can go into the flight-or fight response syndrome, too much of a reaction, we lose perspective and get anxious

This complicates your attention response to

AD/HD children get mini panic attacks all of the time due to transition/change

“I just got focused on this thing, and now I have to get focused on this, and now lets do something else.”

“I finally just got focused, now I have to move on to this. Now I have to move to another class and have to focus on another subject.”

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The Limbic System - Anterior Cingulate

Attention starts at the arousal center, then to the limbic system for attention

The anterior cingulated is the grand prioritizor; it decides what is important, what the rest of the brain is to focus on

It tells the cortex we are going to focus on this first

It prioritizes, let’s really pay attention to this, let’s rehearse this, let’s judge, see if we want to commit to this act and what the consequences will be

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The Attention Center – The Prefrontal Cortex

“INATTENTION IS AN INABILITY TO INHIBIT INTEREST IN UNIMPORTANT STIMULI AND MOTOR IMPULSES. WE CAN’T STOP PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT WE SHOULDN’T BE PAYING ATTENTION TO.”

The Cortex

The region located at the very front of the brain

The brain’s outer layer of gray matter, just 6 cells thick

The last portion of the human brain to have evolved, it is the seat of rapid computing and guides the rest of the brain

Neurons throughout the brain extend their axons to connect with the cortex and thus inform it about a wide range of mental activities

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The Attention Center – The Prefrontal Cortex

As the last portion of gray matter to have evolved, the prefrontal cortex obverses the qualities that make us most human

It is the CEO of most brain functions, including, but not limited to, planning, sequencing, rehearsing, evaluating, and understanding

PFC neurons are our interface with the world and are highly adaptable

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PFC – Working Memory – Executive Function

PFC is also home to Working Memory, the brain’s RAM

Critical to decision making

Sustains attention during a delay for a reward and holds multiple issues at the same time

When impaired, one can’t stay on-task and work towards long-term goal because we can’t keep an idea in mind long enough to operate on it, ponder it, process it, sequence it, plan it, rehearse it, and evaluate the consequences of it

It is the backbone of all Executive Function

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The Prefrontal Cortex & TIME

The PFC is also home to TIME

A person with AD/HD cannot keep track of time; they are thus prone to procrastination

They literally forget to worry about passing time, and so they never get started on the task at hand

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“The cerebellum is THE RHYTHM & BLUES SECTION OF THE MIND.”

Until the early 1990s, cerebellum was thought only involved with motor movement

Recently it has been linked to AD/HD and attention

Keeps rhythm for more than motor movements

It regulates all brain systems, ensuring they run smoothly

Updating and managing the flow of information to keep it moving smoothly

It sends information to the Prefrontal Cortex (thinking) and motor areas (movement)

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The Cerebellum of people with AD/HD

Cerebellum is smaller in volume

Doesn’t function property

Causes disjointed attention

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Now appears that cerebellum coordinates

~ Thoughts

~ Attention

~ Emotions

~ Even social skills!

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The Cerebellum is a Processor

Cerebellum is an on-going processor

Continually updating and changing in space and balance

Takes up just 10% of the brain’s volume, but one-half of the brain’s neurons

When there is a problem with the cerebellum

Child cannot hold steady

Can’t hold the rhythm

And it is hard to get into a rhythm

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Cerebellum & Dyslexia

Cerebellum is involved with dyslexia

Researchers know that most children with dyslexia perform worse than average on tests of cerebellar function

Cerebellum affects moods

Alcohol suppresses the cerebellum

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Cerebellum controls our smooth flow of attention

When dysfunctional the cerebellum causes life to be discontinuous

Sleep, and then awake

On subject, the off subject

Not a smooth flow of time

Children with AD/HD have a hard time

~ Starting a project

~ Staying with a project

~ Finishing a project

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The Cerebellum & Autism

Autism is related to both motor and social problems

Children with autism never had a chance to smoothly navigate through life

Some studies have found that the small middle part of the brain or cerebellum is involved

A recent large Belgium study found many children with AD/HD had developmental coordination problems

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News

Welcome back to another school year. I hope your summer was relaxing and invigorating and you are looking forward to the approaching school year and the opportunity to stimulate and challenge your students’ minds.

This summer I was able to study Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker and international advisor on education to governments, non-profits, and education organizations

I, like many people, find his writings and Ted Talks not only witty and inspiring but also thought-provoking and challenging. Much of his work deals with the diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities. He posits that the noticeable lack of them in our schools negatively affect students’ learning and teachers’ productivity and the absence of them is triggered by the demands of standardized testing.

I hope you find Sir Ken Robinson’s words inspiriting and challenging as I do and be mindful of them as you plan for the new year. Here is to a great 2017-2018 school year!