Research

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The March post shared examples of how BrainWise changes behaviors, and past newsletters presented data that show how BrainWise graduates have improved outcomes on measures of decision making and executive functions.

Dr. Judson Brewer

Dr. Judson Brewer

These successes would not surprise Dr. Judson Brewer.  Dr. Brewer’s research focuses on mindfulness training, a process he describes as teaching us how to focus on what is happening in our minds and bodies from moment to moment. He calls this experience “getting curious,” and says it helps us step out of “old, fear-based, reactive habits.”  His 2016 TED talk, “A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit,” has been viewed more than 6 million times.

In BrainWise terms, he is talking about recognizing our Red Flag Warnings and then using Wizard Brain thinking to lower whatever emotions our problems trigger, including craving, anxiety, anger, excitement, and fear.  This awareness, which he calls a “step into being,” helps us manage our urges from moment to moment.  By breaking problems down and making them more manageable, they become easier to change.

He admits that this “might sound too simplistic to affect behavior,” but his lab research shows that “mindfulness training was twice as good as gold standard therapy at helping people quit smoking.” He has gone on to successfully apply the approach to a wide range of problem behaviors.

The reception to his work and presentation is exciting!  Likewise, BrainWise users learn how to replace Lizard Brain emotions and reactions with Wizard Brain responses, a similar technique that alters problem behaviors. By using BrainWise CPR (Marty put link to summary of BW CPR here), program graduates learn that Red Flag Warnings prepare them to access their Emotions Elevator.  This process helps them control the impulse to react because it makes them aware that what’s happening in their bodies is connected with their minds and how they react.

Emotions Elevator

Emotions Elevator

In addition, BrainWise graduates learn to make further connections with the prefrontal cortex when they use their support systems, apply strategies that help them lower their emotions elevators, separate facts from opinions, ask the right questions, identify all their choices and the consequences of their choices, and communicate effectively. These additional skills not only provide a simple way to break a bad habit, they also are easy techniques that help us make lasting changes to improve our lives.

So the next time your Red Flag Warnings fly and your emotions shoot up your Emotions Elevator, recognize what is happening, and step back.  Assess the situation by using the 10 Wise Ways.  And as was discussed last month, use BrainWise CPR problem-solving worksheets to practice applying your skills.  It won’t be long before you are making better choices.

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Braille Brain

Braille Brain

10 wise ways in Braille

10 wise ways in Braille

Aurora Central High school in Colorado serves a high needs population, including refugees from all over the world.  The school has 300 IEP (Individualized Education Programs) students, and a small number are blind or have visual impairments. School psychologist Karyn Singley Blair is a veteran BrainWise instructor, and serves on the district’s Crisis Team and Brain Injury Response Team. She shared teaching tools they are using with the visually impaired students, including a Braille brain, a Braille Constellation of Support, and a Braille Emotions Elevator.

Braille emotions elevator

Braille emotions elevator

 

Marilyn Welsh, Ph.D.

Marilyn Welsh, Ph.D.

University of Northern Colorado professor and executive functions expert Marilyn Welsh, PhD, presented results on research of BrainWise taught to homeless men at the 2016 International Neuropsychological Society meetings in Boston, Massachusetts.   The Treatment group, taught the BrainWise
program, included 210 males.  The smaller Comparison group had 61 men.  The groups did not differ significantly on age, race, or education.  The objective of the project was to evaluate the effectiveness of BrainWise and to measure changes, if any, in self-reported executive functions, problem solving skills, and coping self-efficacy  of the participants.

The results found that teaching BrainWise to homeless men was related to significant improvements in executive functions as measured by emotional control, planning, inhibition of impulses, working memory, task monitoring, and self-monitoring; coping self-efficacy and knowledge of critical thinking skills.  The comparison group exhibited a much smaller set of improvements and decreased problem solving skills.  For a copy of the poster, click BrainWise INS 2016 FINAL

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Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky, PhD, is an expert on the brain.  The following article on stress and its negative effect on empathy supports the importance of being low or off your emotions elevator in order to make good choices. The article discusses research that explains why individuals who are considerate of others and show empathy — Wise Way #10 and a higher level thinking skill — must be in control of their stress, as well as the many emotions related to stress.

 

 empathy Humans—and mice—are much more likely to feel empathy toward friends than strangers. New research finds that stress hormones are to blame, writes Robert M. Sapolsky Photo: Getty Images

Feeling someone else’s pain can alter how we feel about our own.

SapolskyBy  Robert M. Sapolsky

The Wall Street Journal  Jan. 16, 2015

Among the many contradictions of humans, some of the more striking ones concern empathy. Our hearts break at a disaster on another continent, and we send money to people whose faces we will never see. We look after the well-being of our pets with deep, empathic concern. We feel the pain of characters in a novel. But at the same time, we can walk past a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk without noticing him. It’s no news that we’re one very complicated species.     For full article, click here

rsz_1rsz_csca_hero_blueborder_10-14School counselors have been longtime BrainWise champions and supporters, and helped pilot the first courses taught to at-risk teens.  Today, they continue to be the largest group of program users.  The BrainWise team presented a session at the 2015 Colorado School Counselors’ Association Conference, and received high evaluations from participants.

Afterwards, some of the counselors talked about how they planned to introduce BrainWise throughout their schools, and how they will work to create a school-wide culture that reinforces the concepts.  These outstanding educators help students deal with formidable issues on a daily basis, and live up the conference’s theme:  School Counselors:  The Super Heroes of Education.

Tricia Jones, Ph.D., President, Faculty Senate, Professor, Department of Strategic Communication, Temple University, and Board Member, the Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR), invited the BrainWise organization to submit a grant for the 2015 ACR/JAMS Funding Cycle.  The focus of the grant was a project that supported the development, implementation and/or assessment of conflict education serving special needs youth populations.  BrainWise responded with  a 175-page document that proposed teaching BrainWise enhanced with the BrainWise online course infused with conflict problems faced by youth with special needs  (i.e., youth with intellectual disabilities, social emotional/emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, hearing and/or visually impaired, physical disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, autism spectrum disorders, and other disabilities).

The turn-around time for the grant  was short, and heartfelt thanks go out to BrainWise board members  Matt Sena, M.S. (help writing the grant), Dan Himelspach, J.D. (finding the grant), and Don Eberle, J.D.  (editing and organizing the grant).  Master BrainWise teacher, Karyn Singley Blair, School Psychologist at Aurora Central High School, teaches BrainWise to “exceptional students,” including special needs.  Karyn was thrilled to be part of the grant and wrote a letter saying her classroom would be a teaching site.  Similarly, Susan McAlonan, Ph.D., Director of Student Services at HOPE Online Academy, volunteered special needs students attending HOPE, an innovative blended learning school, as another project site.

Dr. Jones and the ACR Board will notify grant recipients in November.   This is an exciting opportunity to showcase BrainWise as a conflict resolution intervention, publicize the program’s use with students who have special needs, and get the BrainWise online program up and running.

Deaf and blind teenagers partying

Deaf and blind teenagers partying

BrainWise Board Member Dan Himelspach, J.D., is co-founder of Dispute Management, Inc.  When he learned that the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), in partnership with the JAMS Foundation, had announced a 2015 request for initial proposals, he encouraged BrainWise to submit one.  ACL/JAMS asked for projects that “advance the development, implementation, and/or assessment of conflict resolutions education servicing special needs youth populations.”  The 10 Wise Ways have been taught to this target population for years, and the skills help students manage inappropriate behavior, including conflict and bullying.  The good news is that BrainWise was invited to submit a full proposal, due in October.  Our project will request funds to pilot a blended learning approach with special needs teens.  They will be taught BrainWise face-to-face, and will use educational software and a companion mobile phone app to reinforce the concepts.  The problem examples will include specific conflict situations faced by deaf, blind and special needs students, as well as the typical problems everyone faces.

At the Light Board

At the Light Board

Dr. Susan McAlonan, HOPE Academy’s Director of Student Services, was the catalyst behind arranging a BrainWise training for 130 faculty and staff members at the school in November, 2014.  Dr. McAlonan’s experience with BrainWise came from her previous job as Director of Student Services for Aurora Public Schools, where she saw how the program would benefit the students at HOPE.  She is excited by the feedback  from the faculty, and reports that the next school year will be even better. She said that HOPE’s research team adapted the BrainWise Knowledge Survey for their students and found high validity among the measures.  These results are forthcoming.  However, they discovered that the translated version confused Spanish speaking students, and will resolve this issue for the upcoming school year.  In-house collection of data was necessary because they were unable to partner with our academic partner, Dr. Welsh and the University of Northern Colorado, to measure executive functions.  Strict data gathering regulations require that parent permission be obtained for students to participate in university-conducted research, and getting more than 2900 HOPE students’ parents/guardians to sign release forms was too difficult for them to do.

HOPE Teachers at BrainWise Training

HOPE Teachers at BrainWise Training

Students Using an Electronic Reader with BrainWise Content

Students Using an Electronic Reader with BrainWise Content

Students Showing Their Own BrainWise Posters

Students Showing Their Own BrainWise Posters

The Manitou Springs school district has done an incredible job of teaching BrainWise to their students.  Trained by Colorado State University’s (CSU) Christine Cerbana, teachers have taught thinking skills to 539  K-5 students and administered pre and posttests.  CSU’s analysis of the data found the children made significant improvements in positive decision making, emotional regulation, goal setting and relationship skills.

CSU’s research team – Sabrina Norwood, Juliana Rosa, Kimberly Fairbanks, Danielle Dawes and Christine Cerbana will present the poster at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association’s 2015 annual meeting.   Juliana Rosa will present a more detailed poster at the prestigious Society for Prevention Research 23rd Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, D.C. May 26-29.

RMPA 2015 BW EF & SEL Poster

hot headed at computerThe Wall Street Journal reports that research conducted by Duke psychiatrist Murali Doraiswam explains why it is easy for people to send off angry emails.  By scanning people’s brains when they are making decisions, he found that when our emotions get aroused – by excitement, stress, love, anger, and these “hot cognitions” trigger the emotionally driven limbic system and amygdala.  http://blogs.wsj.com/experts/2015/03/23/the-neuroscience-behind-hot-headed-emails/?mod=WSJ_article_EditorsPicks_3#&mod=wsj_valettop_email

As a BrainWise practitioner, you will recognize this and understand why it happening!  You also know what to do to prevent the incidents.  Dr. Doraiswam suggests that to avoid these incidences, simply being aware that you are getting “fired up” – or, in BrainWise terms, recognize your internal and external red flag warnings.  To help you calm down (or lower your Emotions Elevator), he suggests using meditation and getting support from a friend.

You have these skills, and even more, at your disposal.  You understand how your five senses trigger your emotions to react impulsively, and that building neural connections to your Wizard Brain (prefrontal cortex), you learn how to stop, think and control your behaviors. When you stay off of your Emotions Elevator, you can quickly assess the problem, identify your choices, consider the consequences and communicate effectively.  And this is why hot-headed emails are not a problem for BrainWise users.

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