Combining Biochemistry and Learning to Combat Parkinson's
Jim Zull has taken proactive measures to manage his condition by taking our weekly YogaReach Mindful Movement classes. YogaReach teaches these thrice-weekly classes at InMotion, a nonprofit dedicated to serving people with Parkinson’s disease in Northeast Ohio.
A professor emeritus of biology and biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), Zull spent 48 years studying the brain and learning processes from a scientific perspective. He combined his interest in the brain with his passion for education to found CWRU’s University Center for Innovation in Teaching Education (UCITE) in 1994. UCITE continues to help instructors develop their teaching and administrative skills. Zull has written several articles and books (see below), and retired in 2014.
We asked Jim about his background, and how it relates to his Mindful Movement experiences.
Tell us a little bit about your journey.
I started developing a strong tremor. It was a total shock when I was diagnosed.
Why did you join our Mindful Movement class?
My wife does yoga, so I knew something about it, but I never practiced it regularly. I was curious, so I thought I’d give YogaReach Mindful Movement a try.
What keeps you coming to Mindful Movement?
Every time I do this, I feel good. I feel better and energized. I also love the social side. The people are part of the therapy. This class is interactive, with the patient in mind.
You have a background in the biochemistry of learning. Do you see a relationship between yoga and learning?
The neocortex, located in the front area of the brain, controls our ability to pay attention. This is where dopamine is. All of the available medications act to increase the level of dopamine in the brain. The neocortex is constantly predicting what will happen with motor functions and movement. With adaptive therapeutic yoga, we are practicing the ability to control our movements.
What can our teachers do to better serve our Mindful Movement clients?
Explain how “teaching is the art of changing the brain.” Learn from your students and they will learn from you.
You explained in your book, The Art of Changing the Brain, that we can change our brain through “repetition and practice.” Any other suggestions for developing new connections?
Continue playing games with your brain. The brain teaser movement activities you provide are great!
To learn more about Jim, you can read his interview with The Daily, a Case Western Reserve publication.
Books and Articles by Dr. James E. Zull:
The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning.
From Brain to Mind: Using Neuroscience to Guide Change in Education