Conference update — We’re so excited!!!

banner from vert brochure

The 4th Brain Development and Learning (BDL) Conference is only a little over 6 months away. It runs from  July 24-28 at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC, Canada. For more information about making reservations at the Westin Bayshore Hotel for the conference, click here. If you register before Feb. 15, you’ll receive the early bird discount and save enough for some great sightseeing and dining out when you get here!!

Below you’ll find a sample of ONE popular conference theme and subtopics together with some wonderful speakers who’ll be presenting on that theme. [Note: this is just ONE. You’ll find the others — both themes and speakers — in the conference brochure.]

  • Mind-Body Interrelations & Holistic Approaches to Health and Healing: that for good health, school success, and personal development it is critical to address ALL the aspects of a person — social, cultural, spiritual, cognitive, physical, and emotional.
  • Childhood Trauma: understanding its deep and diverse effects but especially how we can help children recover, prosper, and shine
  •  Maternal Depression: effects of a mother’s depression on her child and what to do about it
  •  Neuroplasticity: the brain is plastic; it changes throughout life based on what you do and experience
  • Epigenetics: most of your genes are turned off; experience affects ‘gene expression,’ that is, it affects which genes get turned on and when

Some of the Amazing Speakers who have agreed to speak at BDL 2013 on one or more of the above topics include:

Introducing: John Cacioppo

[This post is the first in a series that will introduce you to some of the speakers who will be giving presentations at the Brain Development and Learning Conference. Early bird registration closes Feb. 15. Use the drop down menu beneath the Conference tab to go directly to the website or click the next links to view the brochure or download a registration form.]

John Cacioppo’s topic: Neuroscience behind thriving socially

Blurb from BDL2013 conference website

Blurb from BDL2013 conference website

“Loneliness isn’t at all what people thought it was, and it’s a lot more important than people thought it was.”

This is the way John Cacioppo, “a pioneer in the new science of loneliness,'” sums up his team’s findings about the impact of loneliness on everything from people’s state of mind to their life span. Interestingly, it’s not the actual number of social contacts that determines whether an individual will suffer from adverse affects, but whether or not one feels lonely.

 “Some people are socially isolated and they’re not lonely; … [whereas], some people are lonely even if they have a lot of social contacts.”

Loneliness seems to compound itself by negatively affecting the way people judge others and by making social interaction feel less pleasurable. As a person’s social network becomes weaker, so may his/her appetite for food, exercise, and life in general. Cacioppo has found that loneliness has an impact on both brain and body by:

  • contributing to increased stress, promoting inflammation,
  • making one more susceptible to viruses,
  • keeping the body in a constant state of ‘threat alert’, and
  • reducing sleep and relaxation

There are observable and measurable neuro-chemical and structural changes which make the brains of socially isolated people different. Unfortunately, support offered by caring friends doesn’t have much impact on a lonely person’s sense of isolation, especially if he/she is feeling watched over. However, interventions that foster a shift in the individual’s perceptions of social situations can have lasting positive affects.

“As for preventing loneliness, Cacioppo says it helps to know where your own thermostat is set and strive to stay in your comfort zone. … The degree of social connection that can improve our health and our happiness … is both as simple and as difficult as being open and available to others.”


Source article: Psychologist John Cacioppo explains why loneliness is bad for your health  from Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology News and Events (Feb. 2011) found at

Other links:

Past Conference Presenters: Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone

Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone is a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, the Director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation and the Director of the Harvard-Thorndike General Clinical Research Center.

At the 2008 BDL Conference he led a talk entitled “The Plastic Human Brain: Implications for Translational Neuroscience and Education”.  The presentation focused on the mechanisms of brain plasticity at the systems level as they relate to the acquisition of new skills and memories across the lifespan. He also discusses brain plasticity as a ‘double-edge sword’ with consequences that can be adaptive or maladaptive for the individual.  He introduces the concept of modulating or guiding plasticity to promote the optimal behavioral outcome for each individual, and discusses non-invasive brain stimulation methods as a means for guiding plasticity.

Below is a ten minute excerpt from his talk:

Past Conference Presenters: Dr. Sonia Lupien

The 2008 BDL Conference focused on stress and the prefrontal cortex. Dr. Sonia Lupien is at the forefront of research regarding stress.

Dr. Lupien is the Founder and Director of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress at Douglas Hospital in Montreal, Canada. She leads the Laboratory of Human Stress Research that specializes in measuring the acute and chronic impact of stress hormones on learning and memory.

She led talk entitled “Shaping Who We Are: Effects of Stress on Cognitive Development” The presentation focused on summarizing the state of knowledge in the field of stress and its impact on brain development, the scientific definition of stress and the positive and negative effects of stress hormones on the human brain.

Results from studies performed in children and assessing stress hormones were also described as well as the model of allostatic load and how it can impact on child development. In the conclusion of the talk, Dr. Lupien explained the ‘DeStress for Success’ program that the Centre for Studies on Human Stress developed and which aims at educating children and teenagers about stress and its impact on learning and memory in order to give them the tools they need to grow up while managing the stress of their lives.

Below are two excerpts from her talk:

Here is a link to an article related to the talk.

Past Conference Presenters: Dr. Margaret Weiss

The BDL conference is characterized by high quality speaker presentations that are both informative and inspiring.  This blog will highlight some past talks and let you know what to expect from the speakers in 2010.

Dr. Margaret Weiss is a Clinical Full Professor at the University of British Columbia, the Director of Research for the Division of Child Psychiatry and the Director of the Provincial ADHD Program.

At the 2008 BDL Conference she led a talk entitled “Optimizing and Individualizing Treatment for ADHD”.  The presentation focused on defining the methodology of efficacy vs. effectiveness outcomes for ADHD, reviewing the literature on what we know about optimizing outcomes from an effectiveness point of view and identifying key areas in which the individualization of treatment is essential to optimizing outcome.

Below is a ten minute excerpt from her talk:

Here is a link to an article related to the talk.