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:

We become what we do over & over & over … (resolutions pt. 2)

[Adele Diamond, the moving force behind the Brain Development and Learning Conference (see CONFERENCE Tab above), was kind enough to email me this response to my last blog — Willpower, free will, & New Year’s resolutions.]


Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) image from “io9” (2010) at

Prefrontal cortex (PFC) — to which I have devoted my life’s work — is over-rated. It is true that to learn something new, we need PFC. Thus, novices who recruit PFC most usually perform best (Duncan & Owen, 2000; Durston et al., 2006; Kane & Engle, 2002). However, after something is no longer new, those who recruit PFC least usually perform best (Garavan, Kelley, Rosen, Rao, & Stein, 2000; Jansma, Ramsey, Slagter, & Kahn, 2001).


PFC is the evolutionarily newest region of the brain. Other brain regions, which have had hundreds of thousands more years of evolutionary time to perfect their functioning, can subserve task performance much more efficiently than PFC.

So I need PFC to learn a new dance step, but later if I try to think about what my feet are doing while dancing, I will not dance well. Similarly, children need PFC to learn what sound goes with what letter, but when a fifth grader reads, we no longer want the child to be thinking about letter-sound mapping; we want that to become automatic.

A child may know intellectually (at the level of PFC) that he should not hit another, but in the heat of the moment if that knowledge has not become automatic (passed on from PFC to subcortical regions) the child will do exactly what he should not (and exactly what, if you asked him, he knows he should not do).

Montessori (2007) emphasized the critical importance of the child’s repetition over and over again for education. The only way something becomes automatic (becomes passed off from PFC) is through action — repeated action. The only way we become really good at something, whether it is piano playing or chess [or, I’m guessing, acting in a way that is inherently healthy and not seeing it as a form of self-deprivation], is through repeated practice. Nothing else will do. Aristotle commented on this back in the 4th century BC.

Image source: Flickr CC Attribution 11304375@N07/2769553173

Image source: Flickr CC Attribution 11304375@N07/2769553173

Our expectations often determine outcomes. I suggest that we start with the deeply held conviction that every child is capable of succeeding at what we teach.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons -- Goethe_(Stieler_1828)

Image source: Wikimedia Commons — Goethe_(Stieler_1828)

When a child is not succeeding, ask yourself how you might do something differently so that this particular child is able to succeed. If we believe every child can succeed then we will push ourselves to think outside the box and try something new and different that might, just might, work for a particular child. Sometimes our testing method is the problem; we are not asking the question in a way that allows children to demonstrate the knowledge and abilities they have (Diamond, Churchiand, Cruess, & Kirkham, 1999; Diamond & Gilbert, 1989; Diamond, Kirkham, & Amso, 2002; Diamond & Lee, 2000; Diamond, Lee, &Hayden, 2003).”


Additional references on the powerful role of expectations and attitude (others’ and your own)

“You Changed a Country”

Here at the DCN Lab we have been receiving emails and blog comments from people who attended the BDL conference in the past, and were really touched by all of them.  We spend a lot of time and energy trying to make the conference a great experience, and it’s always heartening to hear that people have enjoyed it and learned a lot.

We recently received this email from Karin Windt, President of the Dutch ADD Foundation.  Her comments about BDL really resonated with us, and we thought we should share them with all of you.

Here is Karin’s email:

“Dear all,

This blog is a great idea, thank you so much for once again organizing this great event!  First of all I would like to take the opportunity to thank the people at DCN Lab for making me feel so welcome at the last Brain Development and Learning conference. I found out about the conference only two weeks before and you were all a great help in finding a place to stay and giving me pointers as to how to find you and which speakers addressed the topics of my interest. Nevertheless I managed to attend each and every one of them and needed 2 more notebooks (in addition to those you provided). I was only late once!

The BDL conference meant a lot to me, it gave me the confidence to continue my current efforts as president of the ADD Netherlands Foundation and provided me with the information I needed to help those in need. Specifically children with the predominantly inattentive type of ADD who are in school. I won’t forget Laurel & Hardy ever again! I think I even met the speaker but was too overwhelmed by the amount of information to realize. Before the conference, my last days in school were 15 years ago. I forgot how good it feels to receive a certificate. And being a smoker in Canada turned out to be a great challenge by the way. I even lost weight because the food stands in Vancouver only carry healthy foods and spending the first day on Grouse mountain gave me more energy then any spa would.

A lot has happened to me since I met all of you. I wrote another book and organized the 3rd national ADD-day in Amsterdam. 800 people attended and I told them everything that happened in Canada and how nervous I was when Dr. Diamond introduced me to everyone; waiting my for my turn to ask a question, my leg was shaking out of control while my mind had so much to say. I was doing a little dance to prevent others from seeing that and was afraid people would view me as hyperactive while trying to represent the inattentive ADD Foundation. (I never even considered this to be stressful, Dr. Lupien) but I got used to it!

What I would have liked to say is that because of Dr. Adele Diamond and her lab, relatives in Vancouver were diagnosed with the predominantly inattentive type Attention Deficit Disorder early on. The information reached me in Holland in 2004 and I immediately went to see (a few) doctors. So in a major way, Adele Diamond and her lab (you people) are the reason I was diagnosed with ADD my self 7 years ago. I would like to thank her for that. To me and many others, this diagnosis came as a great relief. I knew my brother had ADHD and that my late grandfather (who was a painter) had great trouble sitting still when young but I never heard of ADD before. Most of my relatives moved to Canada years ago. Hyperactive was normal to the rest of us here n Holland…but I was different.

What you may not realize is that in 2004 there was absolutely no information on this topic whatsoever. ADD and ADHD are not the same, no question about it. I wrote an article about ADD on my homepage and with this the foundation was laid for the ADD Netherlands Foundation at

Dr. Diamond made an incredible contribution with her paper on this subject in 2005, it is a must read!!! ( My books in Dutch and English, the first, 2nd and 3rd national ADD-day followed and now I am providing extra training to doctors so that they can learn more about the differences between ADD and ADHD. It is only since 2008 that (little) more information on the predominantly inattentive type appeared on the web. So please know that the work you do at DCN Lab has more than just an impact, you changed a country (although we do have a long way to go).

For those who remember I enjoyed our talks very much! It was an absolute honor to meet you all.



We can only hope that everyone gets as much out of the BDL conference as Karin did.