Pat Wolfe – Mind Matters, Inc.

What’s New

Want to become a trainer?

The next Training of Trainers session will be held in  February 27 – March 2 in Orlando, Florida.  (Over 400 educators have been through this training.)  This program is specifically designed for experienced staff development trainers who have a strong foundation in current brain research and are interested in training others in this research and its implications and applications for schools. Its purpose is to prepare you to understand and use the materials I have designed and used in my training over the past twelve years. If you are interested, please email me at and I’ll send you an information letter and application.  You may also attend even if you are not interested in becoming a trainer but just want to update your understanding of the implications of the brain research for educators.


New Research – Gut-Brain Health – What Neuroscientists Are Calling “A Paradigm Shift”

Gut Brain Axis connection paradigm shift neuroscienceThe trillions of microbes that inhabit your body are collectively called the microbiome. They outnumber your own cells ten to one and weigh up to twice weight of the average human brain. Most of them live in your gut and intestines, where they help to digest food, synthesise vitamins and ward off infection.

The microbiome has shown that its influence extends far beyond the gut, all the way to the brain.

I’ve written about this in the blog before: One billions reasons probiotics protect your brain, and it looks like the gut-brain topic is hotting up with David Perlmutter author of Grain Brainset to publish a book in April: ‘Brain Maker – the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life’. In Brain Maker, Dr. Perlmutter will explain

the potent interplay between intestinal microbes and the brain, describing how the microbiome develops from birth and evolves based on lifestyle choices, how it can become ‘sick’ and how nurturing gut health through a few easy strategies can alter your brain’s destiny for the better.

Not to be outdone, last November members of the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) held a symposium titled Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. A summary paper of emerging topics covered in the symposium has been published that claims that

“…the discovery and the explosive progress in the characterization of the gut microbiome have initiated a paradigm shift in medicine and neuroscience.”

Here is a summary of the symposium discussions:

Gut-Brain signalling

A growing body of pre-clinical literature has demonstrated there is a complex signaling system between the mind, brain, gut, and its microbiome.

These findings have resulted in speculation that alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including:

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chronic pain.

John Cryan, the irish neuroscientist you met in my previous article, likens communication to Downton Abbey-like upstairs/downstairs communication,

“The upstairs and the downstairs need each other to survive. From a distance, it looks like they are living completely separate and they don’t have much to do with one another. But when things start going wrong downstairs that filters on upstairs. It’s the same with the gut and the brain. If there is something wrong with your microbiome, it’s going to filter on upstairs in the brain, too.”

The microbiome is impacted by stress

Psychological and physical stressors alter the composition and metabolism of the gut microbiota. And experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behaviour and related brain systems.

For example, when mice are given antibiotics researchers see a decrease in BDNF (a key protein involved in neuronal plasticity and cognition) in the hippocampus (a region involved in emotion, learning and memory).

Tracy Bale, Professor of Neuroscience at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and her team have found that stress-induced changes to a mother’s microbiome can be passed to the offspring which in turn might alter the way her baby’s brain develops.

In a recent interview with the Kavli Foundation Bale notes,

“There are key developmental windows when the brain is more vulnerable because it’s setting itself up to respond to the world around it.  So, if mom’s microbial ecosystem changes — due to infection, stress or diet, for example — her newborn’s gut microbiome will change too, and that can have a lifetime effect.”

A role for probiotics

A growing body of evidence from rodent studies further supports a role for probiotics. Bifidobacterium andLactobacillus probiotic treatment shows beneficial effects on anxiety- and depression-like behaviour in rats and mice.

In one human study of chronic fatigue syndrome (another disorder of brain–body interaction) a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a Lactobacillus-containing probiotic decreased anxiety, but not depression symptoms, in the active treatment group. This study, published as a brief report, lacked detail in terms of the reported result and should be interpreted with caution according the SFN symposium attendees.

Probiotics being used widely (and represent a 20 billion dollar industry). Overall, human studies suggest a potential for positive effects on mood, but human work is preliminary and the SFN symposium called for larger, well-designed clinical trials to be conducted.

What’s next for gut-brain research?

Crowd-sourcing fecal samples (yep, The American Gut Project is crowd-sourcing poo!), fecal transplants, mRNA sequencing or proteomics, fMRI … the symposim concluded that it is difficult to predict the trajectory of the next exciting period of discovery.

Will the gut microbiome add paradigm-transforming insights to our existing understanding of human brain function in health and disease, resulting in novel therapies?

Or will it represent an incremental step in understanding the inner workings of our brains?

Certainly, the next few years of research hold the potential of  uncovering intriguing connections between gut bacteria and neurological conditions that may possibly impact human health.

Tim Cryan is very enthusiastic,

“We’re right at the dawn of a whole new way of thinking about brain development and brain heath. And the neuroscientific evidence for the role of the microbiome is just getting stronger and stronger at the basic level.”



Pat’s Publications

NPR Teacher’s Guide

Brain Matters, 2nd Edition
Brain Matters, 2nd Edition


 The second edition of Brain Matters: Translating Research to Classroom Practice is now available.  Contact the publisher (ASCD 1-800-933-2723) to order or check online bookstores.

Also  I have written a Study Guide to be used by teachers who are reading this book.. To access the guide, log onto  and click on Reading Room, then Books to Browse.  On the left side of the page you will find a link called ASCD Study Guides.  Click on that link, then click on Brain Matters.


The Brain-Compatible Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide  This 6-page laminated reference guide focuses on the findings from neuroscience and the implications for classroom instruction. In addition to a basic understanding of how the brain functions, specific classroom strategies are presented that transform the research into practice.  Available from National Professional Resources $12.95



Absolutely Amazing (and Beautiful) Video!

 A fabulous online video course on neuroscience and education which is free!  Check the following link

Great video on creativity and the impact of technology on the brain by Susan Greenfield


Books I Highly Recommend!

1. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman (2015).  Oliver Sacks wrote in the foreword, “NeuroTribes is a sweeping and penetrating history of [autism] presented with a rate sympathy and sensitivity.  It is fascinating reading; it will change how you think of autism…”

2. Neurodiversity (2014) A great book by Tom Armstrong which looks at several disorders (ADHD, autism, depression, among others) emphasizing the the positive aspects rather than the deficits. Great reading!

3. The Dyslexia Advantage is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject.  It focuses on the strengths rather than the deficits of dyslexia.  A second book is Mind, Brain and Education: Neuroscience Implications for the Classroom an anthology, edited by David Sousa. It contains articles by Michael Posner, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Stanislas Dehaene, Kurt Fischer, John Gabriele, and Mariale Hardiman among others. Both of these books make an extremely important contribution to the field.

Other Books Worth Your Reading

Making Schools Better by Tracey Tokumama Espinosa. This is the third book Tracey has authored based on her wonderful doctoral dissertation.  It is a must-read for every educator who is willing to question and enhance their practice to deliver a better, research-based curriculum with improved methods for the benefit of their students. It blends learning theory and research (the why) with strategies for clearly identified instructional goals (the how).

The Brain that Changes Itself (2008) by William Doige. Written in the style of Oliver Sacks, this is a tremendous book that will convince you (if you aren’t already convinced) of how wonderfully plastic the human brain really is!

Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (2007) by science writer Sharon Begley. While the book jacket says this book is “a groundbreaking collaboration between neuroscience and buddhism” it is really all about neuroplasticity, the ability of the mind to transform the brain. The foreward of the book is by the Dalai Lama and the preface if by Daniel Goleman. You’ll find this book to be a treasure!

The Adolescent Brain: Reaching for Autonomy (2007) by Robert Sylwester. In his usual wonderful writing style, Bob has written an excellent book about the tumultous period called adolesence. It is a great resource for both teachers and parents.

Educating the Human Brain (2007) by two eminent neuroscientists, Michael Posner and Mary Rothbart. Finally, neuroscientists are writing for educators and this is an excellent resource for those who are familiar with the structure and function of the human brain.



For Brain Junkies – Go to and type “brain” in the selection box. You can receive alerts from many sources daily or monthly. Excellent way to get current new findings. Some are from neuroscience journals and some are less than scientific but you’ll be abe to sort the wheat from the chaff!

BrainWare Safari, A Wonderful Computer Program – Of all the computer programs for children I’ve reviewed, this is by far the best! While most programs focus on improving math or reading skills, BrainWare Safari addresses the cognitive skills necessary to be succesful in any academic area. 41 different cognitive skills (such as attention, visual and auditory processing, short-term and long-term memory) are enhanced in an interactive, highly entertaining game format. While the graphics appeal most to elementary and middle school age children, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s just a kids’ game. I’ve played it and found that my skills were improved as well. For further information, research results and testimonials by educators, go to

 Dana Press – Great Resource

The Dana Press is offering an updated edition of their fantastic 135-page students’ book free! It’s called the The Dana Brain Science Guide: Resources for Secondary and Post-Secondary Teachers and Students. If you write a request on school letterhead they will sent you a set of 30 copies of the guide for your classroom, a video called Exploring Your Brain: Stress, Trauma and the Brain, and an audio, Gray Matters: alcohol, Drugs and the Brain. Supplies are limited so don’t put this off. Mail your request to The Dana Press, Attention: David Balog, 745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 700, New York, NY 10151 or fax your request (on school letterhead) to (212) 317-8721.

NOTE: If you are not on the Dana Foundation’s mailing list and don’t receive your bimonthly copy of The Brain in the News, (it contains articles from major newspapers that pertain to brain research) or the quarterly Brainwork. Check their web site ( for information on how to obtain free subscriptions. Cerebrum, the great journal from the Dana Foundation is now available online.

Web sites you can use to keep up with the lastest brain research..*

  • Check and receive a free online news letter each week.
  • Another site is BioMedNet which summarizes reports from major neuroscience, cell biology, and other conferences. I recently downloaded an article on neurotransmitters and a fascinating one on the “gut brain.”
  • The University of Minnesota has an excellent website which can be found at the following address:
  • Continue to check periodically into, lots of good info, especially their “NeuroNews” links.
  • Check out for great updates on the latest in science research. Many articles relate new research on the brain. You do not have to sign in to obtain information….just click on the link you want.
  • If you aren’t receiving the monthly newsletter from Memory Key, you may want to subscribe (free). This is an extremely informative site proving summaries of the latest brain research .
  • Check out the Serendip web site at It’s a wonderful site with excellent current information from the neurosciences and great ideas for teaching science. Highly recommended!