098 – Understanding and optimizing human brain development for you and your kids with Dr. John Medina

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Our brains are wired in incredible ways to respond to stimulus, remember, and be rewired in ways that profoundly affect our functioning and development. Today we are joined by Dr. John Medina, molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules, a fascinating blend of stories and insights into neuroscience and psychology, with a focus on understanding how the brain functions in order to improve it. In this episode, we are going to talk about some of this functioning, beginning by understanding the nurture/nature mixture that shapes humans as they grow. Of course, the way parents treat their children has a lot to do with this idea of the relationship between influence and brain development. John gives some remarkable insights for the parents out there, sharing some actionable tips to apply right now for being better carers to our kids.

We hear about four typical responses to a distressed child, one of which provides them with the tools they need to turn into healthy well-functioning adults, the other three of which are highly damaging. Our conversation touches on anxiety and depression too, and we talk about how to view them in a different light and cure them through different meditations, exercise, and cognitive behavioral therapy. John also weighs in on how to deal with stress, the many gadgets involved in memory, the difference between brain and mind, and the idea that our actions shape our brains. For all this and a whole lot more on the subject of neuropsychology from an incredibly accomplished molecular biologist make sure you tune in today!

Thank you to our awesome show sponsor, makers of my favorite grassfed collagen and powdered MCT: BUBS, a company making just a few extremely high-quality products and giving back a whopping 10% of their sales to charity. I use their powdered collagen and MCT in my coffee every morning. Use the code INTELLIGENCE for a full 20% off your purchase HERE.


  • Dr. Medina’s research: molecular biology & nurture/nature roots of brain functioning. [5:18]
  • The influence of parent responses to distressed children and their personalities. [10:54]
  • Four typical parent responses to distressed kids: three of which are wrong! [12:54]
  • How to acknowledge and give tools to kids when they are in distress to their benefit. [16:30]
  • The confounding, person-specific things about stress that make it hard to measure. [21:33]
  • How to deal with stress: get better at controlling your response to it. [26:03]
  • Depression chemicals and confounders to finding a depression gene: womb trauma. [30:49]
  • How effective CBT is for curing depression, and how it works by rewiring perception. [34:55]
  • How CBT uses rewards for pairing NATs with positive thoughts, withering the NATS. [39:14]
  • Exercise as a combatant to depression on molecular, cellular and behavioral levels. [43:43]
  • Underfunded studies on exercise and mixing aerobic workouts with mindfulness. [49:20]
  • Enhanced executive function induced by walking in spaces with a lot of green colors. [50:04]
  • Teenage executive function improvement through cognitively challenging exercise. [51:20]
  • The many brain gadgets involved in memory and how it unevenly deteriorates. [58:10]
  • Physical differences and ‘theory of mind’: male and female brain differences? [1.02:30]
  • A perspective that the mind is the ‘space’ between the neuron ‘walls’. [1.08:50]
  • Dr. Medina’s reductionist ideas on positive thoughts and neurochemical changes. [1.12:20]
  • Not escalating in anger but rather practicing inductive approaches to rule-making. [1.16:54]
  • Dr. Medina’s new book; forgetting everything but the weapon in a threat situation. [1.19:41]
  • The necessity of watching the sunrise in optimizing sleep for hacking the brain. [1.22:20]

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Ben Pakulski

Ben Pakulski

Since first lifting weights as a teenager, Ben has been on a mission to do whatever it takes… …to become the most muscular man on the planet! On the eve of The Arnold Classic, he confronts the dark realities of bodybuilding… And his own future! Follow him on his journey…

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Formerly the Muscle Expert Podcast. The world’s top authority on intelligent muscle building and fat loss gives us a simple to understand deep dive into the complex world of building a body you love, and living your greatness. Weekly interviews with leading experts in a vast number of scientific fields focusing on health optimization (nutrition, sleep, hormones, mindfulness and mind set), strength, (both physical and mental), and muscle hypertrophy. Learn proven strategies for optimum life performance, whether it be in the gym, the board room or the bedroom; this is the blueprint for becoming the upgraded modern man. Ladies, this podcast is for you too. The topics, tips, and life hacks covered are essential for every individual who wants to upgrade themselves mentally and physically.

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