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  • Thank you everyone.

  • I have brought for you a human brain.

  • So this is a real human brain.

  • When I look at this brain,

  • I am reminded that we are neurocircuitry.

  • We are neurocircuitry, and every ability we have

  • is because we have cells that perform that function.

  • We know more about the human brain than we've ever known before.

  • We've learned things in the last 10 to 20 years

  • --most of your life span--

  • that has completely shifted the way

  • neuroscientists think about this organ and our relationship with it.

  • When I was in school back in the 80s, we were taught

  • that the brain cells you were born with are the brain cells you'll die with,

  • and you are not going to get anymore along the way.

  • We do know that our brain is capable of growing some new neurons,

  • and this is neurogenesis.

  • We are capable of growing new neurons, particularly in response to trauma.

  • In addition, neuroplasticity, is the ability of our brain cells

  • to rearrange who they are communicating with.

  • What this means, is that the brain you woke in with this morning,

  • is not identical to the brain that you are going to take home with you tonight.

  • In addition, we understand that we are capable of mindfulness.

  • Mindfulness is our ability to observe

  • the neurocircuitry we are running inside of our heads.

  • But on top of simply observing in our neurocircuitry,

  • we are capable of changing our thoughts and changing our brain.

  • We have the ability to pick and choose what's going on inside of our heads.

  • We typically run three types of neurocircuitry.

  • We think thoughts,

  • we stimulate emotions and feel emotions,

  • and we run physiological responses

  • to what we are thinking and what we are feeling.

  • I have the ability to think a thought,

  • stimulate an emotional circuit,

  • and then run a physiological response to what I am thinking.

  • From the moment I think of a thought that stimulates my anger circuit,

  • to the time that I run my physiological response

  • where I down noradrenalin into my blood stream,

  • it flashes through me and flashes out of me.

  • From the beginning of the thought,

  • to the time when my blood is clean of that chemistry,

  • takes less than 90 seconds.

  • I called this the 90-second rule.

  • How many of you have the ability to stay angry

  • for longer than 90 seconds.

  • What you are doing,

  • is you are rethinking the thought that is restimulating the anger circuit,

  • which is restimulating the physiological response,

  • and we can stay mad for days.

  • The bottom line is, I am neurocircuitry. We are neurocircuitry.

  • My neurocircuitry is my neurocircuitry,

  • and you do not have the ability

  • to stimulate and trigger my circuitry without my permission.

  • You cannot make me angry,

  • unless I stick my trigger out there

  • for you to pound on and stimulate my neurocircuitry.

  • If I give you the power to trigger my neurocircuitry,

  • then I have given you my power.

  • And if I give you my power, then I become vulnerable to you

  • through manipulation, through advertising, through marketing.

  • through peer pressure and through abuse.

  • Bottom line is, we are neurocircuitry.

  • We are these incredible celled brain filled with these beautiful cells.

  • So how does it work?

  • Stimulation streams in through our sensory systems.

  • It integrates and organizes as it passes up the spinal cord,

  • and it aims for the outer portion of our brain, the cerebral cortex.

  • The cerebral cortex is divided into two different groups of cells.

  • Our outer layers, for a higher cognitive thinking,

  • and our inner layers, for emotion.

  • So information streams in through our sensory systems,

  • and it aims directly for the inner group of cells of our limbic system.

  • And the cells in the limbic system are asking the question, moment by moment,

  • "Am I safe?"

  • "Am I safe?"

  • I feel safe when enough of the information streaming in through the sensory systems

  • feels familiar.

  • When the world feels familiar, my amygdala is calm,

  • and I feel safe.

  • The interesting thing

  • is that as information comes in and it stimulates my limbic system,

  • my limbic system then sends that information

  • throughout my nervous system, including my higher cortex.

  • What this means is that,

  • although many of us may think of our cells as thinking creatures who feel,

  • biologically, we really are feeling creatures who think.

  • We are feeling creatures who think;

  • and this becomes significant in the way we live in the external world.

  • Information streams in, goes straight to the amygdala;

  • the amygdala says how much feels familiar,

  • and if it feels familiar, then I feel calm.

  • When I feel calm, the cells right next to that, the hippocampus,

  • turn on and they are capable of learning and memory.

  • But let's say that, all of the sudden, the building starts to shake.

  • [If] that happens, your amygdala goes unfamiliar,

  • "Alert, alert, self preservation!", you bolt out the door,

  • shut down the hippocampus and don't care what I have to say anymore, right?

  • A great example about the relationship between the amygdala and the hippocampus,

  • is test anxiety.

  • We all know what it feels like to have that knot inside of our belly

  • and then our throats get tight

  • and our brains feel like they are going to explode, everything is moving so fast:

  • "Alert, alert, panic, panic, anxiety, anxiety, oh my gosh!"

  • But the secret here is that I have a higher cortical thinking.

  • I have the ability to consciously choose:

  • "OK, I have other circuits I can run, I can turn on my higher cortical mind,

  • I can bring my mind to the present moment, I can look around, take new pictures,

  • I can see I am safe, I am safe, and I am not going to die.

  • It's just an exam and I've prepared for it and I know some of these answers."

  • If my amygdala would just calm enough

  • so that I could access that information in my hippocampus,

  • then I could answer the questions.

  • So this is what's going on.

  • Everything that has anything to do with anything is our relationship

  • between the amygdala and the hippocampus.

  • This is really important news; big news, big news, we didn't know this.

  • My generation, and generations before me, we did not know about the 90-second rule,

  • and we did not understand the neurocircuitry of the brain.

  • So, all you have to do, is open up the newspaper and you will see

  • someone has killed someone because someone's amygdala was on alert.

  • Somebody's divorcing somebody because somebody did not feel safe.

  • Everything has something to do with the amygdala, and I think

  • we should all wear shirts that say, "I love my amygdala."

  • (Laughter)

  • "I love my amygdala."

  • What is going on with the teenage brain?

  • How many of you have had a parent or an adult

  • say something like this to you in the last few years:

  • "I just don't recognize you anymore. What happened to my little angel?"

  • How many of you have had that?

  • There is a biological reason for that.

  • How many of you have had a parent or an adult say something like:

  • "I don't understand you! You used to love to do this all the time,

  • I bought you this but you don't use it, I don't get it, what's going on?"

  • There is a biological reason for that.

  • How many of you have had a parent or an adult saying something to you like:

  • I'm just really not very comfortable with your new friends."

  • Yeah! There is a reason for that. We are biology.

  • So, what's going on?

  • We are born with twice as many neurons as we are ever going to use.

  • Isn't that nice we are born with an abundance of cells?

  • And then, the next two to three years, the neurons that are stimulated

  • will connect with other neurons in neurocircuitry,

  • and the cells that are not stimulated, will die away.

  • And then, for the next couple of years, ten years or so,

  • I'm pretty much about me, right? It's all about me, little Jill.

  • I got this new body, I am trying to figure out how to get the body to work,

  • eventually, it's going to hop, skip and jump,

  • and then, I am going to learn about communication.

  • How to pick a voice out from background sound,

  • how to make sound, how to place meaning on sound.

  • Then, I am going to get socialized with little people my size,

  • and my siblings and the adult world,

  • but, it is pretty much all about me.

  • Then, you put me in school, where I will learn more about communication,

  • about spelling, reading and writing.

  • I'm going to learn about mathematics and abstract thinking.

  • And if I am lucky, I am going to be exposed to music,

  • the arts and technologies

  • and all kinds of interesting things that will stimulate me.

  • But ultimately, it's all about me.

  • Well, somehow,

  • our one obligation to our species as a biological creature, is reproduction.

  • So somehow, we have to get ourselves out of the 'me-me-me'

  • into the, "Oh, aren't you cute?"

  • (Laughter)

  • In order to do that, during the pre-puberty years,

  • the brain goes through what we called an exuberance

  • of the dendritic connections inside of our brains.

  • And these little people, if you know them couple years right before puberty hits,

  • they are really, really smart, little sponges looking for information.

  • They are curious about everything, they want to know, and how

  • they want to know why, and just want to understand it all.

  • Then, their bodies are prepared for puberty.

  • And then puberty comes.

  • And with puberty comes several major shifts.

  • One of the first ones is

  • we are going to go through a major physical growth spurt.

  • When we are going through a major physical growth spurt,

  • our entire body changes.

  • It changes and it's not as agile,

  • so our amygdala is on a little bit of alert, which is interesting,

  • but it's a little bit of alert, "What's going on?"

  • And on top of that,

  • then we are going to have our hormonal systems,

  • they are going to start flowing through our body,

  • and with that are going to come all kinds of mood swings

  • and all kinds of interesting behaviors.

  • On top of that,

  • there is going to be what we called a pruning back.

  • A pruning back of 50% of the synaptic connections

  • inside of our brain.

  • We literally lose half of our minds.

  • (Laughter)

  • We literally lose half of our minds.

  • "How does that feel?"

  • "Unfamiliar, unfamiliar. I used to know all this stuff, it isn't there anymore.

  • I used to be interested in these things, I used to look like something.

  • I used to hang out with them, now I am hanging out with this".

  • And then on top of it, on top of it:

  • "Oh, my gosh, unfamiliar, unfamiliar!"

  • We are going to grow testosterone receptors

  • on our amygdala.

  • And when that comes: aggression!

  • I feel a little aggressive.

  • (Laughter)

  • There are biological reasons for the teenage years.

  • There is biology underlying everything you're feeling,

  • everything you're thinking, and everything you are experiencing.

  • The last portion of the brain to come totally aligned,

  • is the prefrontal cortex.

  • The prefrontal cortex is responsible for things

  • including our ability to plan ahead.

  • It's our impulse control.

  • It's our ability to understand the consequences of our behavior.

  • It's the appropriateness of our behavior.

  • So when our parents are looking at us,

  • and we are bigger than they are,

  • and it's all unfamiliar for everyone in the house,

  • what's going on?

  • I haven't reattached my prefrontal cortex yet.

  • There is a biological reason.

  • The beauty, the wonderful thing about the teenage years,

  • is you have literally lost half your mind.

  • Which half have you kept? The one that you are going to use.

  • You are going to walk, to talk, to socialize, to do these things.

  • My best advice to any teenager,

  • is whatever you are good at when you were young,

  • that you want to do in your 20s, 40s and 80s,

  • do it throughout your teenage years.

  • The teenage years is the time for you to tend the garden of your mind.

  • It's your opportunity for you to pick and choose

  • who and how you want to be when you get older.

  • We technically become biological adults at the age of 25.

  • It's when the long bones in our body stop growing long.

  • We are adults, development is over, and the brain is now established.

  • My advice to all parents is keep them alive till 25.

  • (Laughter)

  • Keep your kids alive till they are 25.

  • And to all of you teenagers, keep them alive until 25;

  • nurture the beautiful cells inside your brain until you are 25,

  • and then you will have this gorgeous adult brain

  • then you get to figure out what you want to do with, later.

  • So bottom line here, we are feeling creatures who think.

  • We are feeling creatures who think.

  • Living in a left brain dominant society,