The Brain Trainer
Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD
Your average Texan knows how to take care of her heart: eat a balanced diet, exercise, get regular checkups. But the notion of preventive care for the brain—and the idea that cognitive training can help people recover from brain injuries and reverse age-related decline—is a relatively new one, even in neuroscience. “When I say I do brain health, most people don’t even know what that means,” says Dallas cognitive neuroscientist Sandra Bond Chapman. “People either think, ‘I’m fine,’ or ‘I’ve got Alzheimer’s disease, and there’s nothing I can do.’ ”
But there is. Brain-imaging technology, Chapman says, has offered evidence that more efficient and deep thinking increases brain blood flow and even thickens the cortex, which controls reasoning, planning, problem-solving, and decision-making. “How you think literally changes your brain.”
Chapman founded the research-focused Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas and its Brain Performance Institute, which offers practical applications of that science. This past October, the BPI opened in a new glass egg of a building on Mockingbird Lane. There, experts offer programs like mindfulness coaching for law enforcement officers, cognitive training for veterans with brain injuries, and a virtual reality game for people who have trouble with social cues. For healthy people, BrainHealth Physicals can identify ways to improve concentration and creativity.