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Science has shown us that the stimulation of the vestibular system (your inner ear) is crucial in development of the cerebellum, which is part of the brain hugely responsible for learning. So why are today’s children having increasingly slow development in this area? In the second part of Cerebellum Week, Dr. Daniel Amen is joined by Wynford Dore for a discussion on how to make sure our children develop their cerebellum correctly and avoid learning disabilities.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
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Dr Daniel Amen: So, welcome back. We're here with Wynford Dore, we're talking about the cerebellum. Welcome again to cerebellar week, to the Rodney Dangerfield part of the brain that people just don't care about. And it's interesting, when I first started imaging the brain, it was actually 1988, and I learned about neurofeedback. And neurofeedback is a tool where we put electrodes on the scalp and show people their brain wave activity, and then teach them to change it. And so from there I learned about quantitative EEG, and I really liked that. It was a new way to look at the brain.
But EEG doesn't look at all at the cerebellum, and when we started doing spect scans in 1991, now it's giving this really great view of the cerebellum, and the medicine we used, [inaudible 00:01:53], to do the scans at Amen Clinics, it lights up the cerebellum. So it's the best imaging study if you wanna look at the cerebellum. And we just saw so many problems that could be fixed. I mean, that was the exciting thing.
I showed you a case earlier, Wynford and I were hanging out today, I showed you a case of a woman who'd been diagnosed with ADD by six different doctors, had her on six different stimulants, I'm thinking, "Somebody's got a learning problem," talking about learning problems. You know, after three you think, "Okay, this isn't the right thing." And when she came to see me, she had a cerebellar tumor, and her whole brain was low in blood flow because the tumor had disrupted her cerebellum, and the cerebellum then disrupted the rest of her brain. And when they took out the tumor, her ADD went away. I mean, it was really stunning how helpful that was.
So the cerebellum's just so important. So as you come to this finding, to help your daughter, so how is she now?
Wynford Dore: She's fine. In fact, she's still making great progress. You know, she went through a period of a few months where she was able to start reading, and that was kind of foundational. And writing. Then she started being able to communicate with other people because her confidence was going up, because one of the things we see is that very often those who are struggling with learning have low levels of self-esteem, and not many people realize that there's a direct link between your ability to automatize skill and how you feel about yourself.
So whilst we were focusing initially on Suzy's reading issues, we suddenly realized that this cerebellum, or the brain within the brain as some call it, was actually impacting so many of the other symptoms that we didn't realize were connected. So her mood swings, her depression, her writing ability, her reading ability, her ability to be organized and be structured, was all impacted by the cerebellum. So when we started stimulating that and developing that, Suzy became more of a natural, more confident, more outgoing person.
Dr Daniel Amen: The cerebellum. You actually call it in your book the brain's brain.
Wynford Dore: I do, yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: Which I think is fascinating.
Wynford Dore: It's like the electrician that sits at the back here and just hard-wires everything up. And fortunately it is very, very few that have cerebellar tumors, that's very rare.
Dr Daniel Amen: Very rare.
Wynford Dore: But one in five will have their cerebellum underdeveloped and it will show as poor attention, poor reading, poor writing, poor organization, and so on. So all of these other symptoms can be attributed back to incomplete development of the cerebellum. And that's what's so exciting, is that I want to stop people thinking that if you've got a child, or if you're an adult and struggling with these symptoms that it's because of low levels of intelligence. It's often the opposite, and mums, you know those worrier mums out there, they often see this intelligence in the child and they think, "Why isn't the school finding this?" You know, we expect the education system, or the medical system, to be proactive at resolving these issues and they aren't. They struggle. And children struggle, and adults struggled and often they go right through life without this being [crosstalk 00:05:23]
Dr Daniel Amen: So how does this cerebellum develop?
Wynford Dore: I live next door to a farm, and every spring I go there and I watch some lambs being born. Within minutes of being born, they're feeding, they're standing up, and the next day they're out in the field and they're running around and jumping. Their cerebellum is highly developed from birth. Whereas in humans, it's not. It's almost completely undeveloped. And so what takes a lamb a day will take a human two years to get the same level of ability to jump around and so on.
So it's no wonder that different aspects of the development of the cerebellum is going to vary in the speed with which it develops. So when I see a child or an adult that's struggling with incomplete development of the cerebellum, I only think of it as a delay. And actually I think of it as a positive. So I don't tend to use the labels dyslexia and autism anymore, because I see huge potential. So I just see that there's been a delay, for some reason, whatever it is, just do the right things and you can continue that development and often with unbelievably exciting results. As I saw in my own daughter.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, crawling helps to stimulate the cerebellum.
Wynford Dore: Yes. So what a child is doing those early months of its life is naturally doing the vestibular type stimulation and coordination activities that develops the cerebellum. So often you'll find that children that manifest at five, six, seven years of age struggles with say, reading or other learning issues, often you can identify that they have bypassed a specific exercise that they should have been doing.
So this is a tragic omission on my own part, my oldest daughter Suzy, we put her in a baby walker, so she didn't do much crawling. Now, they may have been a coincidence, but I do know when I talk to parents, so many of the children that struggle with fundamental learning issues actually bypassed some of the crawling stage. Or conversely sometimes, they crawled for far too long and they were delayed in walking, delayed in speaking and so on. So it's what's happening those early months appears to be driving the development of the cerebellum in a natural and a complete way. And if you bypass it, you can do and you've got to go back a later stage in life and complete that development so that this brain within the brain can do its job.
Dr Daniel Amen: So you just gave me a horrifying idea.
Wynford Dore: Oh, good.
Dr Daniel Amen: That when Elias was born, he's my eight-year-old grandson who I adore, and his parents, who I love dearly, you know, they'd give him the cell phone. And he was completely addicted to this thing. And so we've just known not to give him a gadget. But early on, so many kids now are either in front of the television, in front of iPad, in front of the computer, in front of the smartphone, we should call these dumb phones. And so they're not getting the same level of physical exercise.
Wynford Dore: Absolutely.
Dr Daniel Amen: They're not getting the same, they're getting a different level of cerebellar activation than if they're ...
Wynford Dore: Exactly.
Dr Daniel Amen: Doing exercise.
Dr Daniel Amen: You know, not thumb exercise. There's actually a study that says the thumb representation in the brain has become larger since we've introduced gadgets.
Wynford Dore: Yep.
Dr Daniel Amen: And, you know, who needs a larger thumb representation? Well, a monkey if you're in a tree. Not humans.
Wynford Dore: Yeah, yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: But I wonder, and I'd love your thoughts on this, is the introduction of gadgets in the middle eighties, does that in some way correlate with the skyrocketing number of kids who have ADD and learning problems? Because they're not getting the physical cerebellar development. You know, I never really thought about that until just this moment. Talking to you is ... what do you think?
Wynford Dore: I think that there's always a propensity for there to be some learning issue, and the greater the propensity the more likely it is to happen, but then nurture comes into it, and if you do give a child an excuse to be sedentary and not stimulate the vestibular for long periods, then you're not giving the cerebellum a chance.
Dr Daniel Amen: How interesting. So exercise at every age is critical to brain development and we've just seen that. It's sort of the universal treatment for depressions. Head to head against antidepressants they're equally effective.
Dr Daniel Amen: For attention problems.
Wynford Dore: Yep. Well, all we've done, Dr. Amen, is to systematically create the right exercise, the right level of stimulation into a program so that we can take people from wherever they are to a higher level of development of the cerebellum. So I'm a huge fan of exercise, and in fact the American government did a wonderful report a few years ago for schools saying, giving all sorts of examples of proven research showing how exercise transforms kids. What happened in schools?
Dr Daniel Amen: They took exercise out of schools to save money. It's like they took music out of schools. When I was growing up, probably you too, music was just sort of part of the curriculum. And now it's not anymore.
So I wanna, in this podcast I wanna talk about some stories. When you think back on all the people that have done your program, are there a couple of stories that stand out?
Wynford Dore: There are so many. The first one that comes to mind I'll tell you about is a guy called Jim, he was in his 40s, and he had been severely autistic. He just followed his parents around, very quietly, wouldn't speak to anybody, they had to wash him, feed him, dress him, and so on. And they were in their 70s, and they were afraid to get old. And they worked with him, normally it would take six to 12 months, in their case it took a couple of years. But at the end of two years, Jim was going off to London on his own to see his sister, and he was at college studying to be a chef, and the parents came to me one day and they said, "Do you know what? We're no longer worried about getting old."
Dr Daniel Amen: Wow.
Wynford Dore: "Because we know that Jim can look after himself." And that was, I was just in floods of tears. So the impact poor learning has on people is huge, and the impact of ...
Dr Daniel Amen: And their families.
Wynford Dore: Oh.
Dr Daniel Amen: The worry that, I have a handicapped granddaughter Emmy, who I think our followers know about. She was born with genetic microdeletion syndrome. And when she was five months old she had wicked seizures. One day she had 160 of them. And they said she wouldn't walk, and on the ketogenic diet she just did so well.
Wynford Dore: Really?
Dr Daniel Amen: But she still has developmental delays, and when I scanned her at nine months old, she just had nothing going on in her cerebellum. So I'm gonna see if I can get her mom to do this program.
Wynford Dore: Wonderful.
Dr Daniel Amen: I think it could be helpful for her.
Wynford Dore: Well, the second story that comes to mind is one actually in Australia, one in our Sydney clinic, and it was a girl that had severe cerebellar hypoplasia, and it took them a couple of years, and I still keep the videos and occasionally look at them where she went from not just going round in a frame, now she can actually run and function. And it is thrilling. It brings tears to my eyes as well. I cry easily because, you know, having watched my own daughter wanting to die it makes you realize the pain that individuals and families face.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh, it's just devastating. Reminds me of this story of a kid I saw. So I was at a cocktail party. And our group knows I don't drink, so I was having sparkling water. And just talking to these very nice people, and all of a sudden they realized who I was and they told me about their son who didn't get pancakes in the morning, and he had to have his way or he got really upset, and he chased his mother around the house for 40 minutes with the butcher knife. And I'm like, "Oh my god." I said, "You should bring him to see me."
And so they brought Alex to see me, and when he was three he had a cerebellar tumor. So I know this is my second tumor story, but he had a cerebellar tumor. They took it out, but they didn't get it all. So they had to go back in, and on the second time when they back in he developed meningitis.
Wynford Dore: Wow.
Dr Daniel Amen: And the meningitis just killed his left temporal lobe. Your temporal lobe's underneath your temples and behind your eyes, and he developed wicked seizures. And in many ways, people who have autistic kids can relate to if the kid doesn't get his way, he can get very aggressive. And when I scanned him, I could see the cerebellum missing, his left temporal lobe was clearly damaged, that's where the seizures came from, but his anterior cingulate gyrus, it's your gear shifter in the front part of your brain, was fricking on fire. I mean, it just looked like it had seizure activity it was so active.
And when I calmed down his cingulate, I used Lexapro to do that, increased his anti-convulsant, he did so much better. But now that I know about your program, I'm like, his cerebellum was clearly damaged from this tumor, from the surgery, that to reprogram it should have been part of his rehabilitation program. And that's why I'm so excited to spend time with you, 'cause I've just seen the cerebellum to be so troubled. And nobody cares about it, which is bizarre.
Wynford Dore: It is. And the professor who put this on the map was Jeremy Schmahmann at Harvard Medical School many years ago, it took him years to get his first papers published, and that's the scary thing about research. Very often it takes generations before it reaches those that need it. And that's scary. I'm a board members of the reach institute in New York and the whole point of that is so that cutting edge research doesn't get left for two or three generations before it reaches the people that need it.
So can I just share with you one more story? And it's a very personal one. I met my soulmate, [inaudible 00:16:37], she's from Denmark, just two and a half years ago. Her oldest son, he's been thrown out of ... sorry, her youngest son, he'd been thrown out of five schools in Denmark. And when I met him I could see a bright guy that had learned nothing. Huge math anxiety, and he just didn't know anything about science, and so on. But clearly had got intellect. Well, to cut a long story short, he's actually at the school I own in England right now, but the most important thing that's happened is that he did the zing program. And all of the reasons he was misunderstood, all of his inability to learn has been transformed. He'd got a perfect brain waiting for the cerebellum to be wired up so that his learning circuits were activated. He's caught up in two years. He's doing what in England is called a GCSE exams right now, and they're predicting he's gonna pass a lot of them.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and I've talked to his mother and she is just a raving fan of your work. So, stay with us. We're in the middle of cerebellum week. When we come back, we're gonna talk about how you can activate your cerebellum, your vestibular system to have the best overall brain possible. Stay with us.
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