Monday, September 8, 2008

Eat your eggs and get some sleep

Duke neuroscientist Wilkie "Bill" Wilson has given US News & World Report blogger Nancy Shute a quick tutorial on how teenage brains can learn better. It's familiar, common-sense advice, (sleep well, eat right, exercise, feed your brain steadily, not in binges, etc.) but it's all backed by science. You may notice that slumping on the couch in front of the TV is NOT on the list.

Next year, the result of all this thinking about brains rolls out as DukeLEARN, a new health curriculum for ninth graders being piloted in the some NC schools. Wilson, a research scientist in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, has been working for a decade on educating teens about the perils of drug use, especially as it concerns their tender young minds, and has published three books: "Buzzed: The straight facts about the most used and abused drugs from alcohol to ecstasy," "Pumped: Straight facts about drugs, supplements, and training," and "Just Say Know: Talking with kids about drugs and alcohol," all with W. W. Norton.

In developing the books and doing speaking engagements around the country, his team came to realize that they could build a whole curriculum around the care and feeding of your brain.

"We spend all this time teaching to their brains, but never teach them how to care for and use this tool!" he said.

Wilson's preliminary work on DukeLEARN has been supported by a seed grant from Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy, but he's seeking more funding to expand the program.