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Welcome to the podcast, Full PreFrontal: Exposing the Mysteries of Executive Function hosted by Sucheta Kamath. Executive Function is a core set of cognitive skills that allow humans to focus attention, block out distractions, plan ahead, stay engaged, temper emotions, and think flexibly while creatively solving problems to fulfill personal and social goals. The prefrontal cortex region of the brain, which governs Executive Function, is often compared to an air traffic control system at a bu ...
 
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show series
 
What’s the urgent and yet preventable crisis in America? It’s poverty! The discussion about the maturation of the prefrontal cortex, down-regulation of amygdala as well as the flourishing of Executive Function skills throughout childhood is incomplete when according to the Children’s Defense Fund one in six children in United States live in poverty…
 
Douglas Horton has said, “While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself.” Nothing is quite as satisfying as well-executed revenge where by taking justice into one’s own hands feels empowering, quenching the thirst for fairness. However, there’s another option; conventional wisdom often refers to as taking the higher road; letting the bet…
 
“I like you exactly the way you are.” These are the words brought to life by beloved TV host, Fred Rogers, and seems to be exactly what children need to know and experience that they are valued and loved. As culture has taken the time to pause and reflect on the powerful teachings of Mr. Rogers in the heavily consumed medium of television, the evid…
 
Conventional wisdom propels the notion that children from low-income backgrounds perform poorly because their families are less invested or do not value education as much as those from higher-income backgrounds. However, by applying a sociological framework to education, the evidence shows that schools, instead of contributing to the breaking of ec…
 
When the New York Times in a student opinion piece asked “How do you think American education could be improved?”, Skye Williams from Sarasota, Florida wrote, ”I think that the American education system can be improved by allowing students to choose the classes that they wish to take or classes that are beneficial for their future. Students aren’t …
 
In 2015, at the White House Correspondents' Dinner something hilarious transpired. President Obama invited Luther, his anger translator, on the stage with him and the Comedian Keegan-Michael Key obliged. The tongue in cheek display of Obama’s true frustrations expressed through “Luther” was not only ironic but brilliant reminding us how we all need…
 
The schooling of American children is marred by our notions that hard and long hours of classroom learning is a defining feature of K-12 school success even though such environments lack a playful approach to learning or room for imaginative interactions with the world. In their book Out of My Skull, Neuroscientists James Danckert & John D. Eastwoo…
 
Poet and philosopher Rumi once wrote, “Love is the bridge between you and everything.” As much as a loving bond between people may be the starting point for close relationships, the future of it however, is shaped by stress, communication, coping, mental health, and interpersonal support; which are the defining factors that allow those relationship…
 
On February 18, 1981, Mr. Rogers asked Jeffrey Erlinger a 10-year old quadriplegic with multiple challenges to show the television viewers how his wheelchair worked and by celebrating Jeffrey with warmth and amazement, Mr. Rogers helped crystalized the modern neurodiversity movement. For a long time, normal and abnormal have been the only two concr…
 
In his 1890 seminal book, The Principles of Psychology, William James wrote, “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.” One such key form of indecision is procrastination; and research shows that procrastinators act as if there’s no future. There is a way however, to rein in the reckless disregard …
 
Not now, later! These are three words we have come to value. The Marshmallow experiment from the 1960s popularized the idea of self-control and brought it into cultural consciousness; however, sometimes it has mislead us to think that kids who don’t wait for two marshmallows at the age of 4 might be destined to lead less fruitful lives. Instead of …
 
In his short story, The Girl Next Door, essayist and comedian, David Sedaris writes, “In the coming days, I ran the conversation over and over in my mind, thinking of all the fierce and sensible things I should have said.” To some extent, each of us are trapped in our own mind’s echo chamber like David Sedaris describes and if kept unchecked, liste…
 
“You stupid idiot!” Most of us in the civilized world would refrain from using such hurtful and aggressive language when addressing others. However, if someone were to be a fly on our mind’s wall and hear the things we say to ourselves, they might be horrified. When individuals face challenges, encounter failures, and make fools of themselves, the …
 
Kofi Annan once said, "Education is a human right with an immense power to transform. On its foundation rests the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development." The question is, how do we help developing minds gain the knowledge of the self-evident or the invisible structural oppression that creates and sustains inequity so …
 
What is common between a middle school teacher during the pandemic, a three-generation family living together with a terminally-ill child, and an employee who just lost their job? They all are stretched to the max and stressed to the limit. These individuals and the rest of America is stressed! Studies shows that when asked, close to 80% of doctor …
 
A ticking bomb, an empty room with a hanger from the dry-cleaners, a radiator, two in captivity with their hands tied behind their backs, and that’s it. With less than 60 seconds left on the clock, only MacGyver can stay focused and optimistic, get himself untied, get his companion freed and flip the trick back on the assailant at the speed of ligh…
 
In the 1830s, Rev. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet’s method of teaching reading to deaf children was evolutionary and became inviting enough that the then secretary of education, Horace Munn, adopted to teaching it to neurotypical children; the logic being, if the teaching strategy works for the deaf it must work wonders for all. It wasn’t until much late…
 
America’s struggle with equity was unveiled in a 2011 Department of Education study which showed that 45% of high-poverty schools received less state and local funding than what was typical for other schools in their district. The funding disparities were further brought to light through a 2019 Ed Build report that showed that majority-white distri…
 
Keeping up with the pace, load, and challenge of learning requires emotional and self-management skills – best described as Executive Function. However, when these skills are either delayed, under-developed, or absent it is easy to question the child’s motivations and intentions. The truth of the matter is that some kids simply need more support, s…
 
Even though studies after studies show that more than 75% of job success is determined by soft skills ,which in business refers to effective communication, professionalism and work ethics, critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership, the word soft often undermines its nuanced nature and diminishes it potency. In the neuroscience and science of effe…
 
A difficult to teach child slows down the learning for others and accentuates the burden of teaching a group of diverse learners that often looms heavily on the teacher. What if disruptive children are actually facing challenges that result from the lack of critical “to not be challenging” skills such as adaptive flexibility, frustration tolerance,…
 
What do wigs, cookie jars, pizza dough, supermarket flyers, unpaid invoices, airplane menus, and a mummified human foot have in common? Those are some of the Andy Stuff found amongst 641 boxes left behind by the Pop Art legend Andy Warhol, which is now on display at the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburg. Truman Capote was once said to refer to Warhol…
 
The true meaning of empowering children is to help them claim the rights to their own life so that they can lead with a sense of confidence, clarity, and courage. The key is to trust children to make their own mistakes while trusting yourself to resist the temptation of wanting to do everything for them. On this episode, leading American educator, …
 
In the increasingly complex world, raising children to become adaptable, communicative, open, creative, and self-reliant thinkers is a tall order. As the raging pandemic is taking its toll on the American psyche, some groups are proving to be more vulnerable than others. The American Psychological Association’s 2021 survey reports that the parents …
 
What is limited, valuable, and scarce? Attention. As society as a whole tries to navigate the new terrain where attention is the commodity supporting a large part of the economy, it is imperative that humans understand that attention is the gateway to information processing and “knowing what to pay attention to” is probably far more important than …
 
Its no joke, adulting is hard. To adult is to do all the things that grown-ups regularly do because they have to including finding a job, keeping it, living independently, paying bills, keeping a thriving social circle and handle the unexpected curve balls that life throws. High school to college and then college to life are transitions marked by t…
 
The most basic human experience is to be able to communicate; express thoughts and ideas clearly and meaningfully while being fully understood. Most of us are unaware of the nature of these true gifts that allows humans to construct and build relationships from the ground up by launching nuanced skills such as reading faces, reading the room, and r…
 
Yogi Berra once said, “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” High achievers often bring perfection in their work; however, perfectionism can impede ongoing high achievement. The diligence in being perfect is time-consuming and exhausting and since humans can’t give up on the ideas of perfection, it’s prudent to remember that if left unchecked,…
 
“The only thing that could impede me was me“ are the words spoken by Amada Gorman, the first ever Youth Poet Laureate. Amanda for many years suffered from a speech impediment and an auditory processing disorder that made it difficult to communicate intelligibly what her beautiful mind was so eloquently able to construct. Amanda’s personal discovery…
 
Randomly scattered stars light up the night sky, but it is human inventiveness and imagination that has connected these cosmic dots into the constellations we know so well. As the podcast Full PreFrontal: Exposing the Mysteries of Executive Function celebrates its 100th episode, we have the same pleasure of connecting the scattered ideas that exper…
 
This is a repeat of episode 101 brought back as one of my favorite episode. Uncertainly, unceasing demands, and all around unrest can provoke the feelings of restlessness, a state of irritability, and intense worrying and general dissatisfaction. But clinically speaking, these feelings of being on the edge are the signs of anxiety and often when th…
 
If you come across a Wall Street trader, an ER physician, a trial lawyer, a sky-diving instructor, a trapeze artist, or a stand-up comedian, more than likely there is a race-car brain that has been well channelled in spite of its high propensity for intense stimulation and a desire to live on the edge. Experts say that a perennially super-charged a…
 
Our body is a screen onto which our inner experiences are frequently projected. Authors, through their writings, vividly illustrate the imprint of the mind onto the body; for example, Caroline Hanson says “Nervousness made her feel nauseous, almost like she had two hearts frantically beating in her chest, instead of one.” The human interoception sy…
 
Nobel prize winner behavioral economist, Daniel Kahneman's remarkable work brought the concepts of System 1 and System 2 into the mainstream. Contrary to the conventional wisdom which associates human capacity with rational thought and logical thinking (features of system 2), our system 1 (the autopilot) has a much stronger hold on our psyche. It i…
 
In her book Mirror: The History, author Sabine Melchoir-Bonnet tracks the curious journey of a tiny reflective glass once thought to be the most fascinating invention which over time eventually has gotten demoted to the status of an ordinary gimmick. The mirror that captures the presentation of self in everyday life comes through with its promise o…
 
The most vital skills of making and keeping friends, figuring out COVID-19 social etiquette, and navigating the social world with adaptive flexibility is far from being innate or natural. While we have barricaded ourselves in our homes and in spite of 24/7 access to the internet that gives us the illusion of hyper-connectivity, many are struggling …
 
Japanese author Haruki Murakami said it well, “A person's life may be a lonely thing by nature, but it is not isolated. To that life other lives are linked.” A key ingredient in transforming lonely human nature into a well-linked life is the faculty of mature social skills which make it possible to show interest in others, know how to make friends,…
 
Legend has it that after forgetting the lyrics to one of her well rehearsed songs during a concert at New York’s Central Park, celebrated singer and actress, Barbra Streisand, lost her confidence. Petrified by the embarrassment and riddled with anxiety, Streisand withdrew from public performances for almost 36 years. Clearly, a bad experience can l…
 
Imagine being more than 2,500 feet above the ground; with no harness, no ropes and no safety equipment. Alex Hannold scaled Yosemite’s El Capitan solo, seemingly effortlessly and with great command over the rock. The most remarkable aspect of the near impossible feat of accomplishment is Alex’s grit, a strength-based psychological skill that propel…
 
Every Halloween, when the late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel invites parents to video tape lying to their children having eaten all of their Halloween candy, it never fails to produce funny, hilarious, and some heart-wrenching videos of kids having officially lost their mind over the prank. However, it’s truly astonishing to find a kid or two w…
 
“The builder said he was very sorry” writes Louis Sachar in the introduction to his children’s book, where instead of building a school one-story high with thirty classrooms, he ends up building a thirty stories high Wayside School with one classroom per floor. Readers discover that, none the less, the stories from such a strange and silly place ar…
 
Napoleon Hill once said, “strength and growth comes from continuous struggle and effort,” but what about those who struggle to know how best to direct their effort during the ongoing struggle? Children and adults with ADHD suffer from this exact problem which makes it hard for them to find their voice, fit in, and fully flourish with all the gifts …
 
Solving BIG problems requires big thinking. John Wooden once said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” Even though preparing children to take charge of their learning and their future happens in the classrooms, in actuality, it is set in motion through the mission and vision of personal and institutional leadership; with…
 
How to nurture a healthy relationship with life experiences, particularly undesirable, uncomfortable or unfavorable ones, is best captured in Pema Chodron’s quote “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” However, setbacks may lead to more setbacks for those with under-developed executive function including a lack of self-a…
 
None of us are fans of being bored; a state often marked by restlessness and mild forms of agitation. That’s why we all try and avoid the angst that seems to be associated with boredom. But surprisingly, scientists who study the brain, suggest that boredom isn’t too bad for us, but rather the brain’s nudge to get out of that state, take action, and…
 
Emotions are the heartbeat of human existence and the human drama that is full of anxiety, sadness, anger, fury, joy, or love feels like we are either riding a roller-coaster or floating gently in a boat that’s in a calm and placid lake. Emotions that disrupt our relationship with the world require regulation, but conventional wisdom approaches mig…
 
The parents’ job is to protect their children, offer safety and security, and above all, love them unconditionally. But there are visible and invisible barriers and everyone struggles. In order to raise children with strong executive function, parents need to help cultivate a strong foundation where the brain knows not to go into overdrive or over-…
 
Popularized by the business community, the term "soft skills" might imply that these skills are neither nuanced nor hard to obtain. But scientists and researchers who study these skills refer to them as pragmatics, the way one uses language and communication to achieve social and interpersonal goals and believe that soft skills are critical to conv…
 
We are often astonished to read or hear in the news about a kid who grabs a classmate’s hair, or snatches food from their tray, or even kicks their teacher. The average person might focus on the obvious disrespectful and unacceptable in-school behaviors. However, we will be missing point if we think that kids should come to school already fully kno…
 
There is no generation like Gen Z whose stressors have been quadrupled by the times they have grown up in - the economic dotcom burst, highly skilled stressed out parents always in-between jobs, anxiety of a flattening world, and a technology/social-media enabled personal life. Naturally, the question emerges as to how do we help this generation of…
 
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