UTD BrainHealth center to highlight connection between mental fitness and relationships

Researchers once believed that a person’s IQ was a fixed number that couldn’t be adjusted over a lifespan. But the past 20 years of neuroscience research have revealed that the brain is one of the most changeable parts of the body, according to Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth.

The center’s researchers conducted a national survey that found 95% of participants believed they could change their brain – but only 30% understood how to start. The findings have sparked a health revolution with the brain as its main focus.

And so the Center for BrainHealth has launched “BrainHealth Week,” which runs Feb. 20-24, as a way to inspire a conversation about brain health.

A new plan to improve brain health

“The brain has always been seen as this black box of fixed potential – you either have it or you don’t,” Dr. Chapman said. “We know that’s far from true.”

The free week of activities will feature both in-person and virtual events with themes like growth, clarity, connectedness, balance and impact. BrainHealth Week was created for families, communities and policy makers to understand that the future depends on brain skills, Dr. Chapman said.

Head of Operations for the BrainHealth Project, Julie Fratantoni, Director of Youth and Family Innovations, Maria Johnson and Chief Director of Center for BrainHealth, Sandra Bond Chapman sit inside the Brain Performance Institute, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in Dallas. Feb. 20-24 is Brain Health week at the Center for BrainHealth.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Neuroscience research suggests that practicing healthier brain habits can reduce the impact of brain-related diseases – and improve memory and intellectual functions. Those interested in participating in BrainHealth week are encouraged to look at the schedule at and register for the week of events.

Early age

Researchers say that it’s never too early or too late to consider your brain health.

The beginning of BrainHealth Week focuses on family engagement and mindfulness for children. By developing healthy brain habits – such as displaying acts of compassion, nurturing supportive relationships, and having an open mind – young people can reduce their chances of disease and even mental health disorders.

When you look in the mirror, it’s easy to notice physical changes to your body. But the brain is hidden and easy to forget about, especially for young people, said Dr. Julie Frantantoni, a research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth.

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“You only sort of pay attention to [the brain] when it’s not working right,” Dr. Frantantoni said. “It’s not been until really the last couple decades that we’ve been able to image the brain, or know what it looks like or know that it can change.”

BrainHealth Week will also tackle the importance of human connection in brain health. Researchers at the center encourage everyone to show daily acts of kindness to seven people — two people you love, two people you don’t know, two people you don’t get along with, and then yourself.

People who develop healthy connections with themselves and those around them can see a difference in their brain health, said Maria Johnson, the director of youth and family innovations at Center for BrainHealth.

Flowers grow outside the Brain Performance Institute, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, in Dallas. Feb. 20-24 is Brain Health week at the Center for BrainHealth.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

“It’s really about bringing community together,” Johnson said. “How can we use our brains to show up as our best, authentic self and then connect with other people so that we can feel a sense of family and community?”

Daily text challenge

One way to engage in the week of events is by signing up for the daily text challenge. A text will be sent out each day of BrainHealth Week with a healthy challenge to try and a scientific explanation as to how and why it works.

For example, one text will challenge you to reframe your daily thoughts from, “I have to do this” to “I get to do this.”

How you can supercharge your brain from the comfort of your home

Why a text challenge? It serves as a reminder that being proactive about the brain can be as simple as practicing a daily habit. Taking part in your brain health doesn’t have to be a scary task, Dr. Frantantoni said.

Those looking to participate can text BRAIN to 888-844-8991.

Researchers at the center are hoping to extend awareness on how to care for your brain and how to take action to prolong its lifespan. “If we could get the largest number of people to start thinking about their brain, and what they can do to make it stronger, that would be a success,” Dr. Chapman said.

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