Ever misplace your phone, forget someone’s name, or struggle to find the right words?
Of course, you have. It happens to all of us.
But if you find it happening more and more it may predict trouble, especially if your memory is worse than it was 10 years ago.
People who complain about memory loss have an 80% chance it will get worse unless they do something about it!
That’s why this book is so important and I had to share it with you. It’s written by my dear friend and colleague, Daniel Amen, MD, whose brain imaging work has revolutionized how we can improve memory and prevent future problems.
Memory loss threatens everything about who you are, including your independence, but you can do something about it. Contrary to popular belief, memory loss is NOT normal or inevitable.
There is a better way.
Dr. Amen, a #1 New York Times bestselling author and brain researcher, reveals it all in his new book Memory Rescue, available Tuesday, November 14th. He’ll show you powerful tools and strategies to improve your memory and even rescue it if you think it’s headed for trouble.
This book is based on one simple idea: To strengthen your memory or get it back, you have to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors that destroy your brain. The good news is that almost all of them are either preventable or treatable.
Based on leading research and the most advanced technology, Dr. Amen has created a proven program to help you change your brain and improve your memory today so you can live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life.
This book is an absolute must-read for anyone whose life has been impacted by memory problems. There is hope. You can control how fast your brain ages. Now is the only time to see how your lifestyle is affecting your brain and memory.
Give yourself the gift of a stronger memory and remember what matters most to you.
Plus, if you pre-order the book before November 14th, you get these free gifts.
Dr. Michael Gurian
Pre-order Your Copy Today
As I was writing Saving Our Sons (February 2017) and just recently, as I am completing The Minds of Girls (January 2018), I’ve been receiving more and more emails about a topic I bring up wherever I travel: environmental neurotoxins. These neurotoxins affect children’s physical and mental health at cellular levels but we can’t see them—they are hidden neuro-stressors and can be very dangerous.
At a speaking engagement in the Midwest I shared a story of two of my counseling clients who took their children off plastics, went organic, and removed gluten from their family diet. Of their five children, two were having issues with depression and obesity. After their family changes, they saw positive results: weight loss and greater health for their daughter who had become obese, and a tapering of depression for the son they had become very worried about. After I told this story a couple came up to me and shared their similar story. Their daughter had become anxious and depressed at 9. Among the reasons for it, they had been told, could be a combination of adolescent onset hormonal biology and endocrine stress on that biology via neurotoxins. They removed plastics and went organic and saw a significant lessening of anxiety in their daughter.
Drastic family change like going organic may not be needed for every family, but if you have children in distress, and if you see no clear cause of the depression, anxiety, obesity, or other difficulty, I hope you will look closely at the neurotoxin research.
Philippe Grandjean is the co-author of Only One Chance: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development – and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation. He told the Huffington Post, “The world is facing a ‘silent pandemic’ of ‘chemical brain drain’. We have an ethical duty to protect the next generation, in particular--the next generation’s brains.”
Grandjean and study co-author Philip Landrigan note that since 2006, when they first published their results, things are getting even worse. The list of “confirmed developmental neurotoxins doubled in ten years.” At the top of the list of culprits: the plychlorinate biphenyla and bisphenol A in plastic and endocrine disrupting chemicals in fertilizer and food. These endocrine disrupting chemicals disrupt a child’s endocrine systems, the systems on which much of our children’s cellular and brain growth depends. The systems have cellular switches that need to be turned on and off for normal and healthy growth. As the endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastics and food attach to specific receptors in a child’s body and brain, they initiate a complex chain of events that impede correct cellular development and function. The endocrine disruptors keep many of our children’s neural switches off when they should be on and on when they should be off.
Think of each hormone inside each child’s cell as an artist at work – a sculptor who chisels at a blob of rock to create a Rodin statue. Natural gene expression, excited and assisted in a natural environment, is that chiseling, that sculpting, that art. Endocrine disruptors interfere with the artistic process because the disrupter can erase a natural function in some moments and in other moments, alter an action of cells completely. As the disruptor attaches to its unique receptor, it launches a different set of events in body and brain than what was naturally intended for this child. We don’t end up with Rodin’s The Thinker – we end up with a cellular statue without an arm, knee, feet, hands, eyes, or other essential parts of the body.
And the disruptors and toxins don’t just attack your child – they attacked you and your reproductive partner before your child was born, affecting sperm motility in dad and reproductive cells in mom’s ovaries. Many brain disorders such as autism, anorexia/bulimia, ADD/ADHD, obesity, depression, and anxiety, are linked back to these neurotoxin/sperm and egg issues. My wife, Gail and I, as well as many of our counseling clients, have gone organic during our children’s upbringings. It was not easy (nor inexpensive), but we put this kind of protection very high on our list because we were immersed in the research.
I hope you will consider doing this, too. Environmental neurotoxins, especially in the U.S., have become such a severe detriment to our children’s health scientist David Geary, author of Evolution of Sex Differences in Trait- and Age-Specific Vulnerabilities (2016), added “man-made toxins” to his list of major causative factors in human distress. Geary called previously studied “natural stressors” (disease, famine, war, and death) “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” The fifth apocalyptic horsemen in our genes is environmental neurotoxicity.
Here is a short list of “fifth horsemen” to look for and remove, as much as possible, from your children’s lives.
*Poisons in pesticides and fertilizer like chlorpyrifos that directly impede fetal and infant brain development. Stay away from this stuff if you are pregnant, planning to have children, or have children around you.
*Endocrine disruptors mentioned earlier—they appear not just in food and beverages but in lotions, too.
*Chemicals in medications like acetaminophen taken by mothers during pregnancy that can create mutations in the fetus and lead to later behavioral and cognitive problems in the child (this research was published in 2016 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, if you want to check it out).
*BPA (Bisphenol-A) and Phthalates in plastics, noted earlier, that can poison your children, especially when your children drink from plastic bottles that have become hot (the chemicals “leak” into the beverage from the heated bottle).
*Sugar itself which can be a poison to our cells if eaten in excess (a powerful book on this subject is The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes in 2017).
*Even products that we may want our adolescents to use such as birth control pills can affect some genetic structures with depressive symptoms. A study published in 2016 that tracked more than one million women between 15 and 35 on hormonal birth control found a 40% increased risk of depression. Birth control is generally a good thing, but it is also crucial to study all options.
*Allergies and intolerances to normal foods (e.g. wheat, dairy, yeast, tomatoes, etc.).
Parents, teachers, grandparents, and all of us in the grass roots must take up the cause of protection against environmental neurotoxins in our own homes, schools, and community environments. This fifth horseman is no joke. Though unseen most of the time, this stressor may be more dangerous than we can ever fully realize. The family I mentioned earlier is just one of many—if you have a child in distress, I hope you’ll get Saving Our Sons or The Minds of Girls or find other resources that will help you delve deeply into this brain-danger that we all, unfortunately, have in common in our everyday lives.
Blog by Dr. Michael Gurian
Is Children’s Mental Health a School Issue or a Parent Issue?
We’ve been alerting our readers to issues in suicide prevention this last few weeks, and I want to follow up with a plea for community partnership on the issue of children’s mental health.
The newest national estimate for mental health medication-use among children sits between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5. It is likely, though, that more children use these medications. Also likely: more than 20% of American children struggle with depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. As suicide rates among our youth increase—for both boys and girls—our schools and families are challenged with a growing crisis. Your child or your neighbor’s child may be struggling.
When I travel and speak in communities, I hear the crisis framed as a “school” issue or a “parent/family” issue. Because federal, state, and local governments have limited funds to devote to suicide prevention, mental health counselor training in the schools, and teacher/administrator training in student mental health, many students fall through the cracks. While IDEA and IEP funding can help, it is just not enough.
In some school districts, suicide prevention programming of four hours is provided to students in 10th grade yet the district is seeing suicides in 8th grade. The lack of funding and training puts schools in a bad position as community members get angry at the schools for not doing enough.
On the other hand, school systems are acutely aware that a child’s home-life and lack of parent-knowledge about the signs of mental health crisis play an equal or larger role in the crisis. As parents, we adore our children. We will sacrifice anything for them. But we are not sure what they need nor how to help them get assistance, services, or medicine. We are also desperately unsure of what limits to put on their social media use, eating and sleeping habits, and relational dramas.
In the article of the week from Medline here (September 18, 2017), you’ll see survey-results from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan that show the dilemma we all face. The survey reveals that most parents do not believe schools can respond well enough to their child’s mental health issues. Parents believe that school nurses and other medical staff can do well with cuts and band aids—physiologic fixes—but not mental health. Meanwhile, school systems are saying, “We don’t have the funding, we need help from legislatures and parents.” And the schools are right.
In Saving Our Sons (2017) you’ll find a detailed section on negligence of mental health assistance for boys, parents, and schools, as well as what we can all do to deal with the mental health crisis among our sons.
In The Minds of Girls (January 2018), I will present similar research and strategies to help with the significant increase in anxiety and depression among our daughters.
One strategy that works for all children is parent/school/legislative partnership.
Whoever you are, I plead with you to meet with three other people right away to raise awareness of the issue, then meet with three others and three others. This really can happen! If you have had a suicide in your school district, it can be the impetus for you to meet in living rooms, classrooms, and elsewhere to form a plan. This plan—perhaps a petition, or an email campaign, or Town Hall meetings about social emotional learning and children’s mental health--will help legislatures, community members, and school systems all get on the same page.
We must remember (and point out to lawmakers and funding organizations): mental health issues are far more debilitating to school budgets, grades, test scores, discipline systems, and every other marker of success than are physical cuts and scrapes, scuffles and disagreements, and even physical bullying.
What is happening in the brain is far more indicative of a child’s future success than most of what is happening in the body.
The Gurian Institute is actively involved in facilitating this conversation in any community that wants to move forward. Please contact us as you need us, and please do anything you can to help spark community-wide protection of your children’s mental health.
As we honor the passing of the 16th anniversary of one of the deadliest days in the history of the United States of America, we remember the helpers. Those who gave and sacrificed their lives, their time, and their families to aid in the rescue and recovery of others. We are eternally grateful.
In tandem, we honor this week of suicide prevention week as we connect the work of The Gurian Institute to the nurturance and resources that align with the developing brain. In several states, suicide is the leading cause of death ages 10-14.
The Gurian Institute will host over 300 teachers,administrators, and community members in Arizona. 10 school districts who serve over 175,000 students in the Phoenix metro area will be represented.
An evening of learning, a community Town Hall, will showcase the principles and tenets of providing students constructs inside and outside of the classroom that allow them to flourish and grow as they develop their core self.
Dr. Max McGee of the Palo Alto Unified School District will keynote our Town Hall.
Gurian certified trainers Travis Webb, Katey McPherson, and Troy Kemp will speak on the topics of attachment and attunement, teen brain and the impact of social media, and male identity development. Specific and practical strategies for providing supports for helping both boys and girls thrive will be presented.
Kids are trained to look for the helpers. As they do, it is crucial that we provide them with proven evidence-based strategies and that teachers are trained in markers of distress.
Join us at our next Gurian Institute in January to learn more, or call us to schedule a training for your faculty.
Together we can make a difference in the lives of our youth.
Connection to care.
Programming that is ongoing and pervasive throughout the formative years.
Boots on the ground.
The time is now.
It doesn't matter where I am working--from Houston to Nashville, San Antonio to Bel-Air, Bloomfield Hills to Chandler--everyone is wondering the same things.
"How do I get my kids off their devices?"
“Why would she say something like that online?"
"Why is she posting 34 duck faced selfies?"
"Why does he act so poorly after playing his video games?"
Twelve years ago, when smartphones rolled out, I set out to understand what the rage was, what was the draw, and how to manage it all. As a teacher and school administrator, I needed to understand all the technologies to remain relevant and current. As my own children grow up, my passion for research on digital technology only increases.
Now, as I travel the country to speak on this topic and host trainings in my local Arizona communities, digital research is growing, especially from a brain-based viewpoint, and none too soon as kids head back to school this month and next. Now is a great time for parents and educators to reset, reboot, and realign expectations. In our Gurian Institute trainings, we provide educators and parents with simple and actionable steps. Here are a few nuggets that can move the needle in your quest to help your children safely use digital technologies this year.
Be in the Know
If it is on their device, it should be on yours You can use mechanisms like Family Share Approval from your carrier to approve app downloads and purchases as well as allow each child their own Apple ID and password so you can monitor their every move. Without these mechanisms, there is no way to truly know what kids are doing online and within the apps and messaging services.
Simple apps like OurPact, Circle By Disney, and ScreenTime allow you to monitor and filter content and restrict by the hour which child can access what.
Websites like safesmartsocial.com and Commonsensemedia.org allow you to keep up with the latest and greatest apps.
You can also easily turn off your kids’ online access and router to your home remotely--for instance, from your date night at a restaurant.
Talk Weekly with your Children about Their Social Media Platforms
Have a “tech talk Tuesday dinner” where everyone shares something brave, kind, crazy, disrespectful from their news feeds. This allows you and your family to discuss your family’s values and guiding principles. When the use of a platform or technology does not align with your family’s guiding principles, changes can be made.
Raising digi-kids is not for the faint of heart. It starts with adults teaching and modeling good digital behavior. This may mean you must unplug, too, during dinner and on other occasions so that family time remains sacred.
Central Charging Station
Unplug your family and children at a reasonable hour.
Research shows our children are often not getting good sleep due to their cumulative time on devices. Many kids sleep with devices under their pillow. This addiction to a blue light device has drastic consequences on their brain development, mood regulation and cognitive ability the next day.
The central charging station should notbe in a child’s bedroom. If it is in yours, it should be away from your head. Phones and devices should be in the OFF position.
Good sleep=healthy kids.
Control the Controllable
As children meander the uncharted waters of tween and teen-hood, parents are forced to monitor and supervise social media platforms andtake control of gaming. It is rarely a good thing for a child’s brain to play an hour of video games on a school night. You can control video game use because you own everything in the home.
You can also control when to give a child a phone. At the Gurian Institute, we suggest 13 or 14 as the appropriate age for a smart phone. Bill Gates gave his children their phones at 14. These ages are better for cell phone use than any earlier period.
Remember, underdeveloped brains are double agents: they can pretend to be okay when they are really in distress, so above all else, be vigilant. The attached article is one family's story of how easy it was to miss the mark.
If you would like to host or sponsor a morning coffee-and-learn or evening parent night on digital life, please contact us. Together we can make a difference.
A blog by Michael Gurian, August 16, 2017
On the day Google software engineer James Damore was fired for writing a Memo about Google’s diversity programs that went viral, my daughter Davita, 24, shot me a quick text: “Dad, I can’t believe they fired the guy. That was the wrong move.” We met the next day and talked at length. The conversation was a wonderful blend of perspectives from a young millennial woman and a baby boomer man. Our conversation kept coming back to this point: Isn’t it time our culture and its businesses used science to solve gender issues rather than just ideological conformity?
For anyone who hasn’t followed this: Damore wrote a brief treatise on Google’s gender policies. His position was a moderate one, agreeing that there are gender gaps and calling for continued study and policy advancement to help women, but also suggesting that gender science, not just ideology, would help deal with the gaps effectively. Science, he argued, can bring more women in because it can help workplaces like Google make jobs more attractive to the various ways that women approach their work—some of those ways show difference from male approaches.
Let me say before I continue: I do not work at Google so I won’t speak for them; there may be other issues regarding the firing that I don’t know about. I should also disclose that I spoke at Google ten years ago. I think Google is a powerful culture-changer, and I generally support the company and believe in its platform. So, what I say in this blog is said with those caveats. I will stick with what I know well: gender science.
This science is crucial to this conversation because Damore based much of his Memo on it. Both Davita and I wished he had footnoted his research—this might have helped him make his case more strongly--but the research he refers to is available to anyone who wants to pursue it. A quick and detailed way to validate the science would be to use Leadership and the Sexes (2008) and its endnotes. My later books update the endnotes further and you can also go to the website, www.michaelgurian.com/Research where you’ll find references to more than 1,000 primary studies. You can also get books by neurobiologists such as Louann Brizendine (The Female Brain, The Male Brain), and, you can go onto Google and/or Google Scholar to get further references.
In Leadership and the Sexes, my co-author, Barbara Annis, and I report our collective four decades of studying the effects of sex/gender differences on workplace productivity, job choice, leadership advancement, management styles, and corporate profit. We identified multiple factors in tech and engineering gender gaps, including factors that grow from all three areas of human development—nature, nurture, and culture. Our research—and that of many others in our field—specifically calls for an end to the single concept (gender bias) approach to gender issues. There simply is no single cause for gender gaps; rather, gender gaps exist for multiple reasons.
In his Memo, Damore tried to make this point and his firing is reminiscent of what happened to Larry Summers, the president of Harvard University more than a decade ago, when he asked his academic community to expand its study of gender gaps in STEM to include all diverse areas of potential research, including neuro-biology. His call to push beyond ideological conformity to a multi-systems approach led to his termination and I felt for him and I feel for Damore. I also feel for academic institutions like Harvard and tech giants like Google. No one here is malicious; everyone is protective. Even Damore and Summers, who are accused of harming women by calling for expanded thinking, can see what Barbara Annis and other women have seen: ideological conformity is paralyzing real change for women.
The two firings hinge on the ideological concept that “gender differences” are really “gender stereotypes.” But Damore and Summers were right: thousands of studies show clear and significant sex/gender differences between males and females. This science of gender difference does not show every female and male on the gender spectrum to be different in the same exact way; rather, it shows gender trait difference. Gender trait difference does not grow from culture-based stereotypes—they are facts and they appear in all cultures and races.
They are factual because the X and Y chromosomes carry different chromosome markers for female and male, thus the female and male brain develop differently in utero and then in life. Transgender males and females have proven this recently as they report carrying gender trait neurobiological differences in conflict with their sexual anatomy. Whether one is cisgender or transgender, nearly every human being senses gender trait difference instinctively. Gender science has proven the differences over the last thirty years using brain scans, hormonal analysis, and psycho-cultural integration models.
With this knowledge in tow, a university or corporate hierarchy that posits the non-existence of gender trait difference is far behind the available science. It is like those people who claim evolution doesn’t exist or that climate change is a hoax. One can make those arguments ideologically, but that won’t stop evolution from continuing its growth patterns nor the earth from getting more climatologically volatile.
In the recent case, Google fell into the ideological trap for the same reason so many others do--in a non-scientific way of trying to protect women. Google execs confirmed that they were in this trap by explaining that Damore was being fired because his discussion of neuro-biological differences between women and men constituted gender stereotypes that were felt to be hostile by some of his female and male coworkers. Because Alphabet/Google, like every workplace, has a non-hostility policy, its executives felt that they needed to fire Damore.
The anti-science bias in this explanation has two faces, both well-meaning but both untrue. First, the science of gender difference is not gender stereotyping but, in fact, real, as the sources above will prove to any executive or person who studies them. Second, even if someone felt like that gender trait difference constituted untrue gender stereotypes, there is no hostility in the science. Hostility is, by its very nature, a violent attack on a person or group. Damore was not hostile nor violent; he was measured and scientifically accurate. Similarly, Larry Summers was not hostile, nor were Barbara Annis, my coauthor and I, in Leadership and the Sexes.
Even more stunning, in my view, is the fact that ideological conformity using hostility as its battering ram often biases itself into doing the very gender stereotyping it is trying to protect women from! This happens unconsciously and takes over a corporate culture. Without realizing it, the corporation stereotypes women as so fragile they can’t be involved in either free speech or, even more interesting, scientific discussion. Institutions that keep this kind of gender stereotyping alive and well think they are protecting women from scientific discussion that might seem unsafe to them but miss the fact that this kind of ideological conformity utterly disempowers women. Obviously, if a woman faces a hostile work environment, she should be able to change that environment. But talking about gender trait difference does not rise to the standard of a hostile work environment.
Tech companies are wrestling with fewer women in their workplaces by conforming ideologically to a very limited single-option framework (unfair gender bias) that is not solving the problem. These companies want to have more women in them (which is a wonderful thing) but they are asserting "gender stereotypes" as the ultimate harm. This assertion is just too thin to do the job. Google’s code of conduct, which was used as the reason for Damore’s firing, says “workers are expected to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias, and unlawful discrimination.” In what way does talking about science and gender trait difference do any of these things?
I hope you will give feedback to corporations and colleges that science is the right tool to use when talking about sex and gender. I hope you can help advance our social conversation toward hard science—neuro-biology and neuro-psychology—so that these sciences can become integrated into our shared desire to advance more women in more STEM fields.
Fortunately, we already know this approach works on behalf of women. In Leadership and the Sexes, you’ll see our reports of corporations such as Deloitte & Touche that succeeded by training their personnel not just in gender sensitivity but in gender trait differences. They found that workers who come into the workplace believing male and female brains think alike end up making big mistakes with one another. Similarly, workplace and corporate systems that don’t account for sex/gender neuro-biological difference create workplaces that don’t work for many women and some men.
When, however, the workplaces integrate gender trait difference into their programming they improve workplace productivity as well as recruitment and advancement of women. Beyond Deloitte and Touch, a number of banks are training personnel in how women and men invest differently; save money differently; have different approaches to buying and selling; and even plan for retirement differently. In fact, when I have spoken at Fortune 500 corporations across the business spectrum—technology, financial services, government--there are few people in the room who don’t intuitively agree that women and men are different. In these training rooms and meetings most people agree we should talk about it.
So, let’s do that. Here’s a list of the multiple variables we need to discuss and develop policy to deal with if we are to fully look at gender disparities in workplaces:
Until we allow for conversation about all seven of these together, and until we alter social policies to deal with all of them, we will continue to see significant gender disparities and they will continue to cut both ways--against females in some cases and against males in others. They will also affect races and ethnic groups differently. While pretending there are simple fixes for situations in the human condition that were never simple, we will use science for every other human innovation—medicine, technological advancement, human psychology—but not gender in the workplace.
Ultimately, the question our corporate leader must ask is: “Do I really believe human life is a dance between hostile men and fragile women?” If we think it is, we will keep firing the Summers and Damores of this world, and we will keep the culture conversation simplistic, not rigorous. But if we can come forward into the new millennium and accept complexity, we will move our corporate life toward more science and less ideological conformity.
Not just Deloitte and others in business, but the parenting and education sectors are already doing this, too. Millions of people nationwide are calling on school districts to incorporate gender science into their programming. Schools are changing to realize that boys and girls learn differently. Teachers are receiving training in gender trait difference and gender spectrum applications. In schools that do this training, grades go up, test scores rise, student behavior improves, and STEM and literacy gaps begin to close.
Similarly, the courts have already accepted the science of gender difference. When Sears, Roebuck & Co. was sued over gender imbalances in their workplace, “the court accepted expert testimony that men and women have different interests on average,” attorney Hans Bader recently reported, “and that women tend to be more risk averse. In EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., the Circuit court upheld the district court’s conclusion that “interest alone can account for the [gender workforce] disparities computed under EEOC’s analysis.”
Albert Einstein said, “Science should not be left to the scientists.” Science is owned by all of us. Let’s encourage corporations to use science alongside ideology. Let’s give the corporations three years of training in the science of gender differences and then see which works best—ideological bias or scientific training. Science will prove itself useful to us, and more women like my own daughters, Davita and Gabrielle, will advance to live as they want to live in the occupations they want and need. I believe this approach will be seen by future generations as the most empowering for women.
Dr. Gurian and Katey McPherson, the Executive Director of The Gurian Institute, have spent the last 6 months working with the Tempe Union High School District on taking a keen look at their social emotional learning initiatives and practices. TUHSD hosted Dr. Gurian for a keynote in February of this year for 1,000 faculty members and staff, as well as parents. They will continue the momentum of this training for a generous number of their teaching faculty and staff, including security, counseling, and classified staff. Tempe Union High School District recognizes the need for trusted adults to understand the inner workings of the teen brain, their learning styles, and the many needs that arise during these most formative years. Through a grant from the Governor's Office For Youth, Faith, and Family, parents will also receive this much needed information and evidence-based programming through evening town halls and forums.
By Michael Gurian
One of the most hidden and destructive stressors on our boys is the mass of neurotoxins they absorb through food, drink, and other environmental sources—aluminum, artificial sweeteners, sugars and flours that may harm them, junk food, pesticides and other pollutants. I believe this issue is one of the least known yet most destructive to males—and to society as a whole.
Until the Industrial Revolution, our sons ate and drank foods and beverages that were natural to their environment—what was grown around them. These fit, for the most part, their gene expression because its genetic makeup and the boy’s genetic makeup were both natural. While a specific boy could be allergic to a particular food or drink, a boy’s life overall was a nature, nurture, culture collaboration.
Since the Industrial Revolution, and especially in the last fifty years, our children are ingesting artificial chemicals unnatural to their genetic template. These are synthetic toxins that can disrupt male gene expression and brain development. These synthetics can come in a food or drink, lead in paint or pipes (as the beleaguered city of Flint, Michigan has discovered), inhaled air polluted by chemicals, or chemicals in plastics, fertilizer and cologne. Each or all of them can traumatize genetic templates for motivation-pathway development and maturation-activity in the mid and upper brain. This science has come to us over the last twenty years from studies in many of the seventy two industrialized countries.
In one set of studies reported in Scientific American, scientists analyzed 150 billion bits of genomic data from human tissues and cells from brain, heart, bone and blood in multiple countries. “Myriad control switches help to arbitrate how genes get expressed in different cells and tissues,” Dina Fine Maron, who reported the research, wrote in 2015, “and those switches are often triggered by maternal diet, toxic exposures, and many other environmental factors. To begin to understand what drives these complex epigenetic effects, scientists…located the switches by analyzing specific chemical modifications on the DNA and the proteins that it wraps around. Then researchers took data comparing individuals who have specific biological traits with those who do not to see which traits are associated with which switches.” Healthy maturation (physical, reproductive, cognitive, emotional, relational), requires the switching on or off of certain proteins in certain cells and tissues.
Unfortunately, if your son eats or imbibes neurotoxins found in plastics, fertilizer, foods and beverages--often called “industrial toxins--the switches needed for full maturation of cells and brain tissue may either not turn on or get turned off. A new meta-study published in The Lancet Neurology revealed that a primary reason for brain disorders connected to immature male brain development are, indeed, these “under-regulated industrial chemicals and pesticides, in addition to exposure to heavy metals” which directly invade gene expression and have become a “major factor in the dramatic rise of neurodevelopmental disorders in children.”
Dr. Philippe Grandjean is the co-author of both the Lancet study and Only One Chance: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development – and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation. He told the Huffington Post, “The world is facing a ‘silent pandemic’ of ‘chemical brain drain’. We have an ethical duty to protect the next generation, in particular, the next generation’s brains.” Dr. Grandjean and study co-author Dr. Philip Landrigan note that since 2006, when they first published their results, things are getting even worse as the list of “confirmed developmental neurotoxins doubled in ten years. At the top of the list of culprits: pesticides.” Pesticides, though helpful in keeping insects away from crops, are harmful to the brains of children—and they touch nearly everything our children eat and drink.
So does plastic, which includes the estrogen-mimicking endocrine disruptors in potentially dangerous chemicals plychlorinate biphenyla and bisphenol A. While the endocrine disruptors are good for making greater financial profit off cows and crops, unfortunately, the endocrine disruptors also keep many of our boys’ neural switches off when they should be on and on when they should be off. For at least a decade we have known that these neurotoxins were affecting girls toward early puberty and greater obesity (invading girls’ natural menses and endocrinology) but more recently scientists have come to realize their potential effects on American boys.
It’s impossible to say that every single boy’s gene expression will be negatively affected by these chemicals. However, millions of boys will be, and your son may be among them. The interaction of the chemicals in food or fertilizer with his human cells may harm him at a hormonal and, therefore, cellular level. As the endocrine disrupting hormones attach to specific receptors in his body, they initiate a complex chain of events that impede cellular development and function.
Think of each hormone inside each cell as an artist at work—a sculptor who chisels at a blob of rock to create a Rodin statue. Natural gene expression, excited and assisted in a natural environment, is that chiseling, that sculpting, that art. Endocrine disruptors interfere with the artistic process because the disrupter can erase a natural function in some moments and in others, alter an action of cells completely. As the disruptor attaches to its unique receptor, it launches a different set of events in body and brain than what was naturally intended for this boy. We don’t end up with Rodin’s The Thinker—we end up with an unfinished statue without arm, knee, feet, hands, eyes, or other essential parts of the body, i.e. cells that are unfinished.
One of the ways male maturation and motivation diminishes in this sculpting process hides in the profound effects the disruptors have on male and female reproductive functioning. It is possible that before your child was born, the disruptors may have lowered dad’s sperm motility and already affected reproductive cells in mom’s ovaries. In part because neurotoxins alter parents’ phenotype in both the sperm and the egg, many brain disorders such as autism, anorexia/bulimia, and ADD/ADHD can be linked back to these neurotoxin/sperm and egg issues.
Testosterone, Undermotivation, and Neuro-Toxins
Male depression, too (including undermotivation on the one hand and violence on the other), can be linked to neurotoxins that affect the Y chromosome’s gene expression specifically. We began to see this link about thirty years ago. One of the first studies to focus on the problem came from the New England Research Institute in which Dr. Thomas Travison and colleagues noted a 1 – 2 percent decrease in testosterone levels among men. “Male serum testosterone levels appear to vary by generation, even after age is taken into account,” said Dr. Travison. “This suggests that some factor other than age may be contributing to the observed declines in testosterone over time.”
From this starting point, he continued to conduct research on males and discovered that endocrine disruption in neurotoxins lowered baseline testosterone levels in some males. Over the decades, the 1 – 2 percent annual decrease in male serum testosterone level has grown, by 2016, to what physician and neurologist Leonard Sax has called “a dangerous decline.” Sax has noted that male testosterone baseline levels are now 30 – 40 percent lower than an average male in the 1970s.
Researchers in the U.S., Denmark, and Finland confirm Dr. Sax’s math. They recently published their findings in Physiological Reviews.
“We are at a tipping point," warned Dr. Niels E. Skakkebaek from the Department of Growth and Reproduction (EDMaRC) at Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen. “There is no doubt that environmental factors are playing a role. Many of the male reproductive problems could be due to damage to the testes during embryonic development. While the reproductive problems could arise from genetic changes, recent evidence suggests that most often they are related to environmental exposures.”
Recent studies published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism have corroborated Dr. Travison’s, Sax’s, and the EDMaRC findings. Dr. Shalender Bhasin of the Boston Medical Center revealed: “The data in this study are important because they provide independent support for the concerns raised earlier about the reproductive health of males….It would be unwise to dismiss these reports as mere statistical aberrations because of the potential threat these trends…pose to the survival of the human race and other living residents of our planet."
While our popular culture often condemns high testosterone as dysfunctional, calling it “testosterone poisoning” or “toxic masculinity,” and while high testosterone has indeed been linked to high risk-taking that can end up dangerous for individuals or groups, we’ve missed the fact that chronically low testosterone is equally or more dangerous because it is directly linked to male depression, which is a direct cause of both male violence and male under-motivation and immaturity. With too little testosterone in our cells, male body, biochemical, and neural development is at risk. Artificially low testosterone levels are harming sperm and egg, and killing our sons and daughters. Neurotoxins invade male development at unprecedented rates today, and we must work together to end this unnatural social trend.
How Do I Know If MY Son Has Been Affected?
One way to know if any of this might affect your son is to check the three primary markers for male health--physical health, cognitive health, and social-emotional development. If your son is having trouble in any of these three areas, you may have very good reason to protect his growing body and brain by getting him off of plastics and thus saving him from the BPA; giving him organic food, thus saving him from the fertilizer that carries the endocrine disruptors; taking soft drinks out of his diet thus saving him from the excess sugar, sweeteners, and endocrine disruptors in the chemicals in pop; and teaching him “neurotoxin literacy” so that he can become a citizen scientist on his own behalf throughout the rest of his life.
All these new family habits can also help girls. I am tailoring this research to help you protect your daughters in THE MINDS OF GIRLS, which will be published in January 2018. I will also blog about this issue for girls later in the year. Right now, for your sons, there is much more about this in SAVING OUR SONS, which you can access HERE.
Protecting our children from neurotoxins and helping schools and other social institutions to take neurotoxins seriously is, I believe, one of our most sacred duties today as parents. We live in a new world. It has new toxins in it, and we must be vigilant.
A revolution may be underway on behalf of boys, not just in the U.S. but also abroad. Our own Katey McPherson just returned from Singapore, where she presented and taught at the Maris Stella K-12 school for boys. Not just in the U.S., but throughout the world, issues facing our sons are beginning to be recognized.
An example: the latest educational research known as the PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment) from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows boys behind girls in most developmental, behavioral, academic, and social markers in all industrialized countries. Another example: weekly and sometimes daily, I receive an email from a parent or professional in China, Japan, Qatar, Kenya, Brazil, Vietnam, Australia, and many other countries asking, “What can we do to help our failing boys?”
In 2015, the World Health Organization published a major study of men’s and boys’ health worldwide. This study makes statistical what we have all sensed anecdotally, and takes the boy crisis even beyond the school room. The study’s authors—from Europe, the U.S. and Asia—provided statistics and analysis from all continents, including the most comprehensive health study worldwide to date, the Global Burden of Disease Study led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The study concludes that in most of the world, girls and women are doing better than boys and men in both physical and mental health indicators. Even when statistics regarding female depression, eating disorders, and violence-against-females such as rape and genital mutilation are included, males are doing statistically worse. Saying this does not diminish female suffering, but it does help us see boys’ needs. Perhaps most surprising is the study’s wide reach: the health and wellness gender gap favoring females exists in some manner in all 72 industrialized countries, including countries like China or Oman, countries we have tended to believe privilege males and denigrate females.
The WHO study asks us to see the world’s invisible boys with a new lens. The authors write, “In most parts of the world, health outcomes among boys and men continue to be substantially worse than among girls and women, yet this gender-based disparity in health has received little national, regional or global acknowledgement or attention from health policy-makers or health-care providers.” The study concludes: “Including both women and men in efforts to reduce gender inequalities in health as part of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda would improve everyone’s health and well-being.”
Katey, I, and all of us at GI are proud to be receiving inquiries for services around the world. Recently, we have had some of those educators travel to the U.S. to attend our Training Institutes here. Participants have come from Russia, Australia, Jamaica, Amsterdam, Guam, and South Africa. The same questions are getting asked all over the world:
“Why are boys so much less motivated in school than girls?”
“Why are boys so restless and, in many cases, seem so aimless?”
“Why is the quality of their work declining?’
The Gurian Institute is proud to be a part of the new revolution on behalf of boys. We hope you will spread the word about how impactful it is to train parents, teachers, and mentors in the minds of boys and girls. So much happens when we fully understand both what our children need and how to help them thrive in whatever place, country, or community they are born.
Gurian Institute Executive Director Katey McPherson talks with Heather Chauvin about screen time in the summer.
As we move through summer, technology and healthy boundaries are on every parent's mind as we try to balance free play and tech use.
Listen in on some tips and strategies to save your sanity and connection with your children.
Listen to the whole podcast here.