#052 Brain Health with Santiago Brand

#052 Brain Health with Santiago Brand

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Episode Transcript

Sharad Lal: Hi, everyone. Welcome to How to Live. A podcast that explores ways to live a good life. I'm Sharad Lal. This is episode 52. 

A deep dive into the intriguing realm of brain health. So what exactly is brain health? And how can we shield our precious minds from harm? How can we supercharge our brains, to achieve extraordinary feats? These are the questions we will explore today.

To discuss this with a true expert in the field. Clinical and sports psychologist, Santiago brand. Hailing from Columbia. Santiago is the founder of men's lab neuroscience consulting in Singapore.

With certifications in QEEG brain mapping, Neurofeedback, biofeedback, coupled with extensive experience as a therapist and brainspotting instructor. He is a true authority when it comes to all things brain-related.

Santiago has shared his knowledge across borders, practising not only in the United States, but also in Singapore and lecturing and various institutes across Thailand, Korea, Dubai, China, and beyond. His expertise has earned him recognition on global platforms, including CNN, and he's even gone to the widely clean book, the power of brainspotting and international anthology. In today's conversation, Santiago and I explore the impact of stress on the body. How constant stress affects the brain. Deciphering the brain's language. The incredible concept of neuroplasticity. Achieving peak performance And so much more. 

But before we dive into this enlightening discussion, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for your unwavering support. A podcast is reached. Over one 20 countries. And we're honoured to be in the top 5% worldwide. If you haven't already, Please consider hitting that subscribe button. And while you're at it. Leave us a rating as well. Your support means the world to us Now let's embark on this fascinating journey into the world of brain health with the one and only Santiago brand

Santiago, welcome to how to live. Great to have you on the show.

The journey into the world of brain health

Santiago Brand: Thank you for having me. Thank you very much for the invitation. It's good to see you here face to face in Singapore. I was born and raised in Columbia, South America. 

Sharad Lal: What got you interested in brain health?

Santiago Brand: it was 2004. I was doing my graduate program in sports psychology. And at the time I was doing an internship with the Colombian Olympic committee. where you work with the elite athletes in the country is, are the athletes that represent Columbia and the Olympics and the world championships. And we had a test that measures anxiety called the STIA.

And we would go with these results to the coaches. So we would tell the coach. Your athlete shows that they're anxious. And they would say how do you know that? And we would say because the test scores reflect that. And then they would ask you, but how do you know that? So I understood what they meant. Beyond a number. How can you truly know that this athlete is exhibiting anxiety? And that's when I said, okay, we have to find a way to more objectively measure this. And I came across something called biofeedback and neurofeedback. Coincidentally that same week, we had a psychologist from Spain. Come and do a workshop for us.

He brought all these very interesting equipment. Where he was putting electrodes on her scalp and looking at brain waves in real time. He was looking at our muscle reactivity, our breathing. And to me, it was love at first sight. It was wonderful. And I immediately thought I knew that's what I was looking for. And I said, okay, I'm going to learn this. The Olympic committee had this amplifier as a BioPack amplifier.

It had been on a shelf. Four. I don't know, three, four years they bought it. They paid a lot of money for it. Nobody knew how to use it. So I took it out, dust it off. And I start playing with it. Collecting data with hurry, variability, breathing, muscle tension, skin conductors, which is your sweating response. the more that I used to, the more I fell in love with it, it was amazing. And at that point, I said, I'm going to move back to the United States. I had previously gone to college in the U S. I said, I'm going to go back. And I'm going to learn this. So I moved back to Orlando, Florida.

I met a psychologist. Who was living near Orlando and a neuropsychologist. And we got along pretty well. We hit it off and she said, Why don't you come to my office?

I say, yeah, let's do it. I go there. it was. I would say the most valuable learning experience that I've had because I got exposed. So there's a wider rate of conditions. I wasn't doing sports psychology anymore. I was in more clinical work, but I got to work with PTSD. I was working with world war II, veterans, Vietnam, veterans,

I was working with chronic pain. ADHD. Autism cases, Asperger's. Anxiety. Depression. Bipolar disorder. And I started learning about brain mapping too. And the more she did it, the more fascinating we were. He said there were times in which we were doing EGS of people with epilepsy and you could see the spikes and the discharges in the EEG in real time. If you had somebody with PTSD and they were having a flashback, you could see it in the brain. 

It was really fascinating stuff. And I said, okay, this is what I want to do. I worked for her for two and a half, three years. And then I resigned, moved back to Columbia and opened my own company. Got my own equipment. And I started doing brain mapping. Neurofeedback biofeedback. So this was 15 years ago. And here we are. Talking about brain health.

Sharad Lal:  What a fascinating story. And for people let's go to the basics. What exactly is brain mapping, Neurofeedback, biofeedback? And how does that relate to brain health?

What is brain mapping?

Santiago Brand: That's a very good question. I do two basic assessments.the psychophysiological stress profile and a brain map use technology. I use it. Non-invasive techniques, which means you put electrodes superficially on the skin. And nothing goes into the body. For The psychophysiological stress profile. I measure people's breathing rate. How fast, how shallow, how healthy or unhealthy their breathing is. I look at something called heart rate variability. Which is the rhythmicity of the heart. 

I look at the muscle tension. look at the sweat response.And all of this. Measures are very important because they tell you about somebody's vulnerability to physical stress and psychological stress. somebody can tell you. I'm fine. And the heart rate speeds up. Oh, I'm great. Under muscles tense up. The reality of things. The main takeaway is that you can see how vulnerable somebody is in distress. how the perception of stress changes because people tell you a lot of people will tell me. Oh, I don't get stressed. I can handle stress pretty well. 

What they mean is that they have beat shoe weight, they have gotten used to the stress. Or their body is still responding to it. And negatively. Just Think of it as if you go to a market. And you go to the seafood section right there. The rough phase, the raw seafood smells really bad. There's some bat stench to it, but after two to three minutes, you don't smell anymore. That's because your senses get habituated. The smell is there. The stench is there. It's just that you don't experience it anymore. And the same principle applies to stress. Your body gets used to it. It doesn't mean that you're coping with it. It doesn't mean that it doesn't affect you. It just means that you are used to it.

Stress can be good to a degree

Sharad Lal: This is so fascinating. Santiago, You talked about physical stress as you call it physical discomfort gifts. What does that do to the body? But you also talked about psychological stress. What's the difference between those and what have you learned through these two? 

Santiago Brand: What's important to understand about stress is that stress is good to a degree. And stress is designed to save your life. If you're facing an emergency situation. That's what it is. If we go back. A hundred thousand years. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. And they had to basically worry about two things. One was to hunt for something to eat.The second thing they had to worry about is not to get eaten. When you're hunting to eat, you have some stress. And you mobilise some physiological resources. Your focus is more, it's more sharp. You secreted more blood flow. You're pumping more blood because you got to get faster. Your muscles secrete more globe glucose, because you have to get stronger. You've got to fight this animal. You have to kill it. 

Then you get some stress, so it's a life or death situation. Now let's assume you're hunting. And then all of a sudden, a sabre tooth tiger comes out and starts chasing you. That's another kind of stress you're going to face and you need that stress. If you want to escape. If you don't want to become this Tiger's next meal. When you survive that. After a short while your body should go back to normal. Stress is over. This happened a hundred thousand years ago. Very simple life. In the 21st century at 20,000, in 2023, it doesn't happen that way. 'cause now. We had a lot of proverbs. Predators chasing us. Economics. Uncertainty, political uncertainty. Wars pandemics.

Credit card debt. Global warming. So anything physical, like a virus or global warming, a disease. Unhealthy eating that creates stress in your body. It means it changes your chemical composition and your body reacts. Like you're facing a real threat. But it's not a real threat. It's not a true life or that situation. Psychological stress has to do with anticipation. And stress tends to be 99.9% Psychological in human beings. Which means we're always getting stressed because we're anticipating something. That has yet to happen. That may not happen. But in our minds it is already a reality.

Sharad Lal: That's such a good point. It's almost like the sabre tigers here all the time. Exactly. And we're functioning with high stress. We never cooled down. We function with high stress all the time. What does that look like in our body?

What does high stress do to our body?

Santiago Brand: There's a brilliant biologist out of Stanford university. His name is Robert Sapolsky. Beautiful book called why zebras don't get ulcers. So the reason for the title is. If a zebra is eating out. In the Savannah right in the Prairie. And a lion comes out then chases in suits. And there's two outcomes either. The zebra doesn't make it. Or the zebra makes it. If the zebra gets to survive. What it's been found, and this is a well-known fact. 30 seconds after the chase is over, the zebra goes back to normal. It completely forgets. That it was a lion chasing it 30 seconds ago. 

And there's no alteration in their biochemistry. That's not the case for humans. If the CBRE were to be a human. Three days later, three weeks later, the human would be still ruminating on that line. And that's the difference between animal kingdom and. Other. Animals in the animal kingdom and humans. And that's because we have. A neocortex. Our brains have more, and are more advanced. So the neocortex means higher order thinking. Which means we dwell. And dwell. And dwell. And this creates all sorts of chemical problems used to create more cortisol, which is the infamous stress hormone. And cortisol creates inflammation in the brain. One of the things that does to the brain, not only the brain and the body, but one of the things that cortisol does, it goes into your brain. 

So it will go through the blood-brain barrier. And it will go to an area of your brain, a regional grade part of your brain called the hippocampus. And it will bind to receptors there. And the hippocampus is very important because of two reasons. Number one. That's where we create new neurons. That's that. House and to sit for neurogenesis. The hippocampus keeps our brains young and healthy. So guess what cortical. Cortisol does to neurons and the hippocampus, it kills them. And we don't make new ones. Neurons. We started losing her memory. And that's it. Most basic foundation for. Neurodegeneration. 

Okay. And cortisol would also create this inflammatory response, which activates a group of cells in Britain called the glial cells. The glial cells are immune. System immune cells of the brain among other functions. And what they do is something called phagocytosis, which means they eat the dead tissue. Thanks for your Gloria. You can stave off Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and any other brain disease that will. Be potentially very dangerous or deadly. But when you're stressed, chronically. Even though you may not think so. Even though you may not experience it because you're used to it. 

Your glial cells are going to turn against you. And what w what it means is that you, glial cells are no longer eating the bath tissue. There, they're eating the Guth teaching. Tissue. So is that an autoimmune condition? Where your own immune brain cells. Start turning against you. They go AWOL, they go rogue. And they turn against your brain. And that's the principle for. Protein aggregation, which is the basics for Alzheimer's frontotemporal dementia Parkinson's disease. It means that your own immune system will turn against you. Attack your brain and part of the reason, not the entire reason, but part of the reason that happens is because you're stressed. Chronically. Even though you may not experience it, even though you may think. I'm fine. I can deal with this. Again, you're used to it. It doesn't mean that you're not producing this response. You used to create more glucose. You'll get more insulin resistant. Your immune system is suppressed. You get more impulsive. Your sleep goes out the window. So it's very complex. Chain Of events.

Sharad Lal: Thank you for describing then what struck me with all these things happening? They happened quietly. You're not seeing them. And the damage, unfortunately, you start seeing in your old age, but it's being done maybe in your thirties and your forties with all the stress and your new cells are not being created. 

The existing ones are being eaten up and that leads to staff. So that brings us to the point of this podcast on brain health. Brain is the core centre that manages stress that sends all these responses to the rest of the body. Now to make sure. That we're able to deal with stress. We need to have strong brain health. According to you. What are the key pillars of strong brain health? How can we be proactive in maintaining this?

What are the pillars of strong brain health?

Santiago Brand: The first thing we need to do is to understand how it works and what it is. So what we need to do is essentially look into the brain. And to do that, I do an assessment called a brain map. Brave up is a noninvasive assessment. In which I record your EEG or your brain with activity in real time. With your eyes closed and with your eyes open. The reason we do that is because your brain needs to behave differently. When your eyes are closed. From when they're open. Just for me to point that out. So when your eyes are closed, you supposed to be relaxed

. Yes, correct. When your eyes are open, then alertness is there. But if you don't relax, when your eyes are closed, that shows that the brain is always on. Stress cortisol. Is that right? Exactly. That's the premise. That's exactly right. It's non-invasive and we can record your brain wave activity in real time. And if you've seen an EEG, probably on television, it looks squiggly as I go up and down. Those are the neurons communicating to us. When we do a braid. But what essentially we're doing is setting up a dialogue. We're communicating. We're chatting with the brain. We're asking the brain. Okay. Brain. Please tell us what the problem is here. And the brain will speak the language of brainwaves. Which we learned to speak. And then we translate into the client's language, right? So whether it's an English or Spanish or French report, I should use it. We learned the grammar of the brainwaves and the phonetics of the brainwaves. And then we translate that for the patient. 

And when there's something not working right. In the brain. The brain will show patterns. And this pattern is coming in many shapes and forms, but once you notice them, The first time. You're going to see them repeat it. Is this. If the brain is waving the Ahrefs and going, Hey. Pay attention to this. This is important. So you mark it, you bookmark it. And then you wait for it to happen. And W people with unhealthy brains or brains that are not functioning well. Could have one specific pattern. Or two or three, several patterns. And those funders we call biomarkers or neuro markers. So it's a specific signature, specific electronics. Or electric, I should say signatures in the brain that point to a correlation with something. Now we should go back to. Statistics 1 0 1. 

And correlation doesn't mean causation, right? It just means there's a correlation between two things. The fact that you're sunbathing every day, that's something you're going to get skin cancer. There's a strong correlation, but it's not a core session. So there's a correlation between these biomarkers. And things like depression. Dementia PTSD. Anxiety, sleep disorders, problems with attention, problems with memory. We learned to identify those. And then we show them to the person. And then this basic electric activity, this basic brainwaves, we convert into 3d maps. So with specialised software, You can create very beautiful 3d images of the brain that had callers. You can turn them around. Or you can point to the client, the areas of the brain that are not working with. Where you need him. Now. What's the greatest added value? I never have, or I never allow people to tell me anything about themselves. Why? Because I want the brain to do the top. Dope. 

There is great credibility and predictive value in the QEG, which is the technical name for the brain map. Quantitative electroencephalogram. There's a great predictive and credible value in the brain map or the brain scan. When people come to me, I hook them up. I started looking at the brain. And that's when I start telling them why they're here to see. Now I cannot tell 100%. But the reliability is 89, 90, 5%. It's really high. And I tell them. It looks to me like you're spacing out in class. Or it looks to me like you have a tendency to feel anxious at certain times. Maybe you can not relax too well. It looks to me like you have little versus bursts of anger here. This is really scientific and it's evidence-based. When I do that, then we learn to identify these neuro markers. 

These specific morphologies to the brainwaves will indicate what brain health is all about. And that goes into your behaviour. Your sleep. Your emotions, your memory. The way you relate to others. The capacity to learn and remember. And your overall performance. So they, again, relate to anxiety trauma. Depression bipolar, which are names we give to things. When you see me do a brain map, I will never formally diagnose anybody. I will not say you have depression. I will say there are patterns in your brain that show you have a tendency to feel depressed at times. And the main difference is that the person will own that diagnosis. To me, that's dangerous. And counterproductive. If I see if I'm giving an actor a character. Anyway, they go the full method. They're going to play that character while they're shooting or on the days you're not filming. And they will come to believe that's who they are. So a very important thing I tell people is this is not a reflection of who you are. you're human. And your brain is vulnerable.

Sharad Lal: I like both those points. You can look under the hood and see potential patterns, And the second is you also try to make them know that this is not a disease or anything that you have so that you don't identify it. Doesn't become a self fulfilling prophecy. Once you have this information, there are certain things that you can do. Now I'd love to click on that. How should people take it and what can they do from there?

How to proceed if you feel anger flaring up?

Santiago Brand: That's a very good question. Now I want to add, before I go into that, brain mapping also has this advantage. You don't necessarily have to get a brain map to find out that something's wrong with you. you can also optimise performance. So you can also do a brain map. Discovered the pen, the person's abilities. Potential talents. And you can enhance those as well. Because I wanted the listeners to understand that a brainwave is not necessarily something you get when you are broken. 

So it can open up some parts which can unleash a new area of potential second. I can open up things for you. It can potentiate things where you're already doing well. Or you want to do. Another level. Yeah. So people want to get that edge on the competition. Corporates have that all the time. They want it. They want to learn how they can get the edge on the competition. How can I be the best employee in the company? How can I be the best sales person? How can I get that commission? Oftentimes the brain holds the answer. So you can train that. Okay. Now once you've identified. 

Integration is the key. In my line of work, I use something called neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a brain training technique that uses technology. The way it works is once you have identified the areas of the brain that need the work. You put individual electrodes on the scalp. To train those brain areas, you are essentially teaching the person to teach their brain. To make more or less of those brainwaves is that, see if you're going to the gym and you want to get more muscle. And lose fat. And whenever you want to be more learned, right? So you started losing fat by doing more cardio and eating better. But you'll gain more muscle by lifting. So lifting is what the gym does to the body. And what neurofeedback does to the brain. So lifting is what Neurofeedback is to the most. 

Is it like creating new neural pathways or doubling down on neural pathways and removing some, all of the above? Yes, exactly. And we know that neurofeedback fosters plasticity and neurogenesis. Why do we know it because we've done research studies with MRI and MRI. We take somebody. At a baseline. And we do an MRI. We look at their white matter and grey matter. The white matter is falling in the brain, which means how healthy. The grey matter is connectivity. Functional connectivity. Now what's important to understand here in the brain is not so much about having millions and millions of years. Is having the right quantity. And it's functional. Which is what technical, functional connectivity is. Yeah. So you could have a brain with lots of neurons. And they're not turning on. What good is it?

Sharad Lal:  And if I'm not mistaken, when you're born, you have the maximum neural pathways in the first few years. And then later on, it's just removing some pathways and using the important ones. If I'm not mistaken.

Santiago Brand: Yes. That's usually the developmental trajectory for somebody. And of course that is influenced by experience. 

Sharad Lal: You touched on something, which I find very fascinating about neuroplasticity and which is that the brain is not set. You can change it. And then it can adapt. If you can talk more about this fascinating subject.

Your brain is not set - you can change it

Santiago Brand: Yeah. Up to a few years ago, we thought that once you reach a specific age, that's it. And once you start losing neurons, you don't get them back. But we know to date that's not the case. There are some neurons that you do get back. Which are normally called pyramidal neurons. And these neurons, you can. Get healthy and somewhat regenerate. The Gloria neurons that die. Those you don't get back. And the glial neuros are the ones that you really want to protect at all costs because your brain is 90%. Dalea cells. It only takes 10 to 11% loss of glial cells.

 For people to start experiencing trouble. That's all it takes. unhealthy CLIA are related to neuroinflammation. And your inflammation can manifest in different ways. Neuroplasticity is the ability to get. Number one to bring, to produce new cells, neurogenesis. And to produce healthy, functional since. Again, it's not so much about the number. It's about the functionality. neuroplasticity is enhanced in different ways. If you learn a new language, your brain is making new neurons and creating new connections. 

You learned to play an instrument you're fostering neuroplasticity. You learn to drive a car. You fall in love. You travel and see new places. It's neuroplasticity. Anything that's new to the brain. That motivates the brain that enhances that sense of joy, happiness, and you're learning something. Directly or indirectly enhances neuroplasticity. But obviously there are some methodologies that are more efficient because they're faster acting and more robust. And your feedback is one of them. What I would do is I put the electrodes on the eyes of the brain. And then I teach you to control your brainwaves. By providing some feedback for you. The most popular form of neurofeedback is with a movie. 

So let's say you like it. To watch The Shawshank Redemption. That's my favourite one. Great movie. Where you're watching the Shawshank redemption. And you have the electrodes on you. The movie keeps playing or the movie is going to shrink. Or the screen is going to get dark. That it's connected to your brain activity. If then what we keep splaying, the sound is okay, your brain is doing what it's supposed to. The moment your brain starts doing what it's not supposed to do. What's problematic for you? The screen gets dark or the movie Strix. That's your feedback. So your work now is to get your brain to move in the right direction. Again. By enhancing the right pattern. And suppressing the wrong pattern.

Sharad Lal: So if I understand right. Then your brain realises that the game is to keep the movie playing correct. And as. As it plays that game. It develops better neurons, better systems of developing the right part of the brain. And leaving the bad part. And that's the exercise. That's the gym exercise it's doing correctly during your.

Santiago Brand: That's right. And by doing that, you are. The patterns that are connected, that are not working well for you. They wither away. They become dormant. And you create a new connectivity pattern that now works for you. For instance in depression. The brain is wired in a certain way. That will sustain the sadness, the antidote, the suicidal thoughts. Once you change that pattern. That's in other words, she's with her weight and you are creating a new network, which enhances resilience, enhances empowerment, enhances joy, and happiness enhances a new outlook in life. 

That's what we do with neurofeedback. And the reason we know is, again, we take somebody to do an MRI. We train them for X amount of time. We do another MRI and we can evidence the changes there's healthy, grey matter, healthy, white matter. So there's a growth in volume and conductivity. In the brain so fast, these changes tend to stay. For. What's the long run? And then for laymen to understand once that's happened, you've got a much more powerful brain. Now the brain can do a lot more, so it could be again. It could help you with some things that may have gone wrong, let's say depression and stuff, but it could also help you with peak performance, new neural pathways. Yeah, or stronger neural pathways have become available because of which you might be able to do more. You might be able to do better. Yeah. 

A good example of that is I had, I was working with a female client here in Singapore and she came to be because she was highly stressed. She said, Everything throws me off balance. My kids don't make the bed. I get extremely upset. My husband lives, the dishes on the sink without Washington. That just stresses me out greatly. She was getting chronically stressed for little things. When I did the brain map I identified she had on the right temporary loop. She had a very specific pattern and the right temporal lobe has a region called the insula, which is Orinda. When it's overactive, it makes you more prone to react in that way. So it makes you more short tempered. In a way. We trained there. 2040 sessions. I do a second map. And then we can see the changes that the brain is more steady in the patterns. And I asked her. What. Does anything feel different to you? As she said. My new motto in life is effort.

She said the whole thing. I don't care. I would love to get to that. The small irritants in life. It was so powerful because she said it doesn't bother me anymore. If my husband didn't do the dishes, then he'll do them later. Or I do them, but I don't get carried away. If my kids don't make the bed, I don't care. And it's not that she was transitioning into a state of Not caring at all. It was that she just wasn't bothered by that anymore. And she said, I know, live such a peaceful and happy life. And the same happened with another female client. The pattern for her was every time we go on holidays. 

I start Pushing and annoying my family into packing the bags. Two weeks before the trip. One day she comes and tells me where we're going. The day after tomorrow, we haven't packed her bags. And I'm not bothered by that at all. She said, I'm just not, I know we'll pack our bags and we'll go enjoy the holiday. So it's a very powerful statement. Where you can yourself. Rewire your own brain to achieve those states. And, there's also other powerful statements. Like I'm sleeping. Like I haven't slept in 20 years. I don't feel like I want to hurt myself anymore. I don't get bothered by the little things anymore. I'm going from getting Flunking out of school to getting straight A's. I've seen all sorts of things and people are very happy. People, cry, tears of joy, people, cry, tears of empowerment. It's a very powerful thing. And the good thing is that we can evidence it, not only by the subjective report of the person, but we can look from brain map to brain map. 

From MRI to MRI from blood test, a blood test, we can evidence the changes. I've worked with adults with senior citizens. I worked with a lady once who was 98 years of age. Very healthy, very healthy. A lot of energy vitality. As she was just getting some memory issues. It was not Alzheimer's or anything like that. And we worked with her. She lived to be 103, I think. And, during those five years she was able to recover some of that memory too. She lived a very happy long life. So it doesn't mean that because you're old or older, it doesn't mean that you can work on your brain as long as you're alive and relatively healthy. This is something that will help you. 

Sharad Lal: That's such an important point. Yeah, it is because people. One can do this. There's this myth that you can not teach an old dog new tricks. That you can at least when it comes to brain training. Yes, absolutely. Can't. Yeah. What are some other myths about the brain? 

Santiago Brand: Culture can also get into the way. That is our culture. That thing, that training to the brain is an insult to heritage. Is an insult to tradition. There could also be stigma sometimes. What's wrong with you? Why are you going? Was this? Yes. The stigma that is there with mental health is great. Yeah. Or you're training your brain doesn't mean you're slow. Are you crazy? Are you dangerous? And that's what people want to keep private for the most part. just a very quick sideway question and I don't know how much you'd like to talk about this. What role does psilocybin have? With relation to the brain and part way is this so much work now?

 And I don't know how much it is. Mainstream, how much is still under the hood? What is the overview of psilocybin psychedelics? Yes. There is a future there. But we have to look at those things very carefully. Psychedelics are very powerful because they open. Doorways in the mind. That had been closed for a long time. This is a very interesting and important point that you're bringing up. The first three years of a person's life are very important. Extremely important. Whatever happens in those first three years of life can be the foundation for something like personality disorders. Or intractable mental health conditions. there's a combination of genes. If you have those, any of those three genes plus a traumatic experience, you're very likely to develop. So some of those conditions. And then. They do therapy for years, nothing works. 

And just to be clear, it's. Eugenics it's genes plus environment. It's not just genes. Yeah. That. That is the low question. Is it nature or nurture? It's both. Now what happens is the psychedelics help. And look at those windows. And that's when they're useful. So you can use them. For specific cases. And as far as I understand. There's some research with this as being used for radicalised people. Yes. And with some success, And I think that anything that can help when it's used. In an integrated fashion it is more useful. And by that, Psychedelic. So as your psychotherapy. Plus your supplements, plus your neurofeedback plus exercise. Plus healthy nutrition. I don't think that any single intervention is the magic bullet. I think integration is the key. And in my line of work, I'm always encouraging people to exercise, to eat well, to sleep well because those things combined. Are what make the whole individual healthier.

Sharad Lal:  Let's double click into that. So that's for folks at home, what is a good integrated lifestyle that they can adopt? To have a healthy brain. 

Santiago Brand: There's four pillars or rather behaviours that you should engage in to have a healthier life Nutrition. Healthy eating. Social relationships Exercise. And then sleep. I always say, if you could afford to only work on one of those behaviours. If you're given the choice to say, okay, yeah, you have the four, but you're only going to choose one, go with sleep. He sleeps, supersedes every one of those. They're all important by sleep supersedes. Those. And it's the most neglected behaviour today.

People. More and more brag about how little they sleep. And I tell them, okay. When you have diabetes, when you start with dementia, when you have parking. So you're not going to brag about it too much. Sleep. Is the one number, one thing we all need to take care of. Because everything is connected to your cravings and your healthy or unhealthy eating. It's connected to your emotions, connected to your behaviours, and connected to your performance. And that means it doesn't matter how healthy we eat, how much we exercise and how much self care we do. If we don't sleep well. None of that will matter in the future

. I've been looking at brain maps for 10, 11 years now. More recently, I'm going to say. Let's talk pre pre-pandemic to post-pandemic times. Okay. Nine out of 10 brain maps that I do show that people are not sleeping well. It's not that one out of that Nine out of 10 are not sleeping well. And that ranges from simple insomnia. Two more severe sleep disorders like sleep walking. President Ronald Reagan. And Margaret attaches two great examples of that. They both bragged about how little sleep they got. And they both got dementia.

Where I see it most problematic is in the younger generations. Teenagers and kids. With sleep disorders. Very powerful. Now, what are some early signs that people might see that brain health may not be okay.

Early signs of a deteriorating brain health

You are more irritable than usual. In terms of emotional reactivity, you are more irritable than usual. Very little things throw you out of your balance. You see a Coca-Cola commercial and you get upset. You see a little doggy walking down the street, you get upset. You get irritable. Very trivial things. That's one. If you eat certain foods and you get brain fog. You get hazy thoughts, you feel more weak, you feel bloated in your stomach. That's another issue with brain health. If you are waking up in the morning, tired, if you wake up in the morning, feeling that you didn't sleep and you want to sleep more. And there's not enough coffee in the world to wake you up. That's another red flag. 

When it comes to brain health. If you smell. Certain chemicals like pollutants or even cologne or perfume. And that makes you. They see it makes you drowsy. It makes you nauseous. Then you have an issue with your brain health. If you are craving. Sugars and candies more than you should. That's an issue with brain health. If you are more forgetful than usual. And people will know what that means, if you're more forgetful than you start forgetting words. You start forgetting people's names. You start forgetting things you didn't forget before. That's another issue that points to brain health. Very interesting. We've talked about so many of these things Santiago, is there anything else that we haven't touched upon, which you think we should talk about?

Lifestyle in general. Yes. So again going back to the four behaviours, exercise is very important. Because exercise. Helps secrete a substance that's called BDNF brain derived neurotrophic factor. And be the NFS powerful for two reasons. One. It's a chemical that helps you. New neurons grow. So it promotes neurogenesis. And to neutralise this court cortisol. So BDNF is your cortisol. Bustard. your nutrition of course, which should be also personalised. Yeah. And by nutrition, you need to have that assessed. You need to find out if you have full food intolerances. I ask people when you eat, So you, you feel bloated immediately and they go, yeah, I go if you have bloating, it means you have intestinal permeability. Which means that you have brain permeability. if you're, if you've got a swollen. Your brain will be swollen. 

That opens the door for trouble. The one thing I tell people and I probably should. Mention that here briefly is put the phone down. I put the tablet in now. That's only hurting your brain. It's hard to do because most people are addicted. It's an addiction. This is always going to be a controversial subject because I can now imagine some younger people saying, why does the old guy. This is the modern times and the things you've all they should get with it. I'm like, okay, fine. Whenever you're 45 and you're getting early dementia, then don't blame me. Don't come crying to me, because we're seeing that more and more. More and more people under 50. Are being diagnosed. With dementia or some kind of neurodegenerative disease.

Sharad Lal: Very useful. Thank you, Santiago, for such an informative talk. I am going to book my session with you. I'm hoping you have some slots available.

And for people who are interested, I'm sure many would be interested. We're going to leave your links in the show notes. This is such an important topic. Wish you all the very best. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Santiago, for such an enlightening conversation. For more on Santiago, we will drop a link in the show notes. Here's an action step. We could all consider. Sleep. What can we do to get better sleep?

Episode 13 in our podcast on sleep has some simple and powerful hacks on getting a good sleep. Once that simple tip that I liked was stepping out of your bed. If you can't sleep for more than 15 minutes, maybe do some stretches and then come back. Instead of lying there for hours. To check out episode 13 for more such steps.

Another action step you could consider is better nutrition. In episode 33, we tackle nutrition. Again, a very simple tip mentioned in that episode. Is changing the order of eating. So eating vegetables first, then proteins, And finally carbs. This simple change in order has huge benefits. For more, listen to episode 33. All the very best. That's it for today's episode. I hope you enjoyed it. We will be back with another episode two weeks from now on October 24th. Hope you join us for that till next time have a wonderful day ahead, bye bye.