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“Dementia is not an aging disease; however, it is the most common disease among the aging population.” Dr. Babak Nayeri, Clinical Associate Professor from the University of Arizona, from the Netflix Documentary, This is Dementia.

Watch this interview on YouTube here

On this episode you will learn:

✔ Who is Dr. John Denboer, what he built, and lost in his passion to help mitigate dementia.

✔ What Dr. Denboer learned raising funds for a high growth startup.

✔ What is the difference between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia?

✔ What can we all do now to mitigate this debilitating disease.

✔ How a tattoo with personal and professional meaning motivates Dr. Denboer to keep moving forward with his work.

Welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, for EPISODE #221. For those who are new here, I’m Andrea Samadi, author, and educator, with a passion for learning, understanding difficult concepts, and breaking them down so that we can all use and apply the most current research to improve our productivity and results in our schools, sports environments, and workplaces.

This month, we are breaking into a new season on the podcast, Season 8, where our focus will be on Brain Health and Learning with a look at How an Understanding of Our Brain Can Improve Learning in Ourselves (adults, teachers, workers) as well as our future generations of learners.

If you’ve been following our podcast over the seasons, you will know that our content took the turn towards health and wellness around September 2020 with a BONUS EPISODE where we covered the Top 5 Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies[i] after watching Dr. David Perlmutter’s Alzheimer’s The Science of Prevention Documentary.[ii] We took a closer look at Daily Exercise, Sleep, Eating a Healthy Diet, Optimizing our Microbiome, and Intermittent Fasting) as strategies we can all use to improve our brain health with the goal of preventing one of the most devastating degenerative diseases that affects “more than 5 million Americans (that is closer to 6 million now after reading our next guest’s book) and is the most common form of dementia, a term that describes a variety of diseases and conditions that develop when nerve cells in the brain die or no longer function normally.”[iii] This number has reached “over 80 million cases globally and is expected to double to be 150 million cases by 2050.”[iv] (Denboer).

On today’s episode #221, we will be speaking with Dr. John Denboer, a former clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in early stage preventative medicine – including cognitive, physical exercise and nutrition – with a goal of slowing down the natural decline in patients with dementia. At peak, his practice served in the range of 10,000 patients in the US supported by over 100 employees.

I listened to a recent podcast Dr. Denboer did with Graham Brown on the XL Podcast[v] and learned that while Dr. Denboer has a passion for disrupting Dementia (the umbrella for degenerative diseases likes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) that there have been many ups and downs in his start up journey as a pioneer in this field of health and wellness, disrupting Dementia. In today’s interview, I’ll ask him about the lessons he’s learned along the way, the importance of family, and to explain his mission to make a difference for dementia sufferers and their loved ones before the global numbers go from 55 million people living with Dementia to doubling these numbers in the next 20 years.

***Just to note that John Denboer is not a current licensed psychologist / neuropsychologist / doctor and cannot provide medical advice. While researching Dr. Denboer I did see some things online that made me wonder why he is not a current licensed psychologist, and if you know me, getting to the truth of something is important. Instead of sweeping what I saw under the rug, I will ask him directly to explain what happened, so we can cover his journey with all the facts uncovered.

Let’s meet Dr.John Denboer and learn what we can do to disrupt dementia, strengthen our brains, and apply some of the lessons he’s learned in his journey.

Welcome Dr. John Denboer.

Intro: I’ve got to ask you, because I did notice before you sent me the note to be sure we say that you are not a current licensed psychologist/neuropsychologist/doctor that something happened to your license. When I’m researching someone, I always say, “if it’s online, I’m going to see it.” Instead of just ignoring what I saw, can I ask, what happened to your license?

Intro B: Dr. Denboer, I listened to a recent podcast you did, before I read your book, This is Dementia, or watched your Netflix  This is Dementia Documentary that goes hand in hand with the book, and it was a heartbreaking episode. It hit the heart for me, as I’ve been working the past 25+ years to bring awareness to important strategies and skills in our educational system (hence the name of the podcast Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning) and to do this, we have relied on grant funding with our work in the schools. Some competitive grants were won, others were lost, but my dollar amounts were nowhere near your dollar amounts lost with your start up. Can we start with a quick overview of what you built, what happened, and what you learned raising funds for a high growth startup, the successes/failures?

Q1: I just interviewed Hilary Decesare,[vi] who appeared on that TV show Secret Millionaire on her new book coming out Relaunch and she talked about all the people she’s helped over the years to start over. We’ve all been there at some point of time. What are you focused on now, and what is your vision for the future?

Q1B: I watched your Netflix Documentary This is Dementia last night, and I did lose an Uncle who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers at 58, and it was a devastating experience to watch his decline. For those who don’t know what Dementia is, can you explain the difference (Dementia vs Alzheimer’s?)

Q2: Can we mitigate dementia? What can we do right now to prevent this disease from impacting our brains?

Can you explain what science knows about the brain and Alzheimer’s and how Alzheimer’s Disease affects the brain (our ability to think, remember and make decisions)? I do like to make sure we include the science in a way that we can all understand and learn something new. Is it just those 2 proteins Beta-Amyloid and Tao[vii] that do the damage in our brain, or is there more to it?

Q1C: I did get my husband and I a brain scan[viii] to look and see what our brains looked like after I heard from Dr. Daniel Amen say that Alzheimer’s can show up in the brain years before onset, but we can’t all get our brains scanned and we were lucky to get his VIP rate since I did a podcast on the results. What can you share with us about early stage dementia detection since we can’t all get our brains scanned until the cost comes down. What can we all look for and what prevention tip can we all implement immediately to prevent cognitive decline?

Q2: When I saw your tattoo in the documentary, to motivate you personally and professionally, I related, as I recently got a tattoo for the same reason, and I draw on it daily to motivate me (it’s on my ankle). You can’t see your tattoo on your back though. Why did you put it there?

Final Thoughts

For people to reach out to you, and learn more, is the best place

Dr. John Denboer, I want to thank you for coming on the podcast today, and being so open to share your journey with all of those who tune into the podcast. There are many lessons to learn from your experience, as well as the importance of listening to your heart and moving forward no matter what obstacles come your way. You surely have faced more obstacles than most of us, and your story shows that being a pioneer in the health care industry does take a unique and dedicated individual. I wish you all the success with your mission, and raising awareness for how we can all mitigate and slow down this devastating disease.

Andrea’s Final Thoughts

Wow, that was a heartbreaking interview. I knew it was going to be difficult during the research phase, but knew there would be many lessons for all of us to hear. Since our focus of Season 8 is on brain health as it relates to learning, I wanted to debrief this interview, and think about everything that stood out to me.

Lessons Learned from Dr. Denboer’s Story

    1. Never a Lender nor a Borrower Be. The first lesson made me think of something my Dad used to say all the time, and is easy for us to see in hindsight. He would always say “Never a lender, nor a borrower be” and I know how difficult it must have been for Dr. Denboer to share the story of where borrowing money took him drastically off course. If you have ever been in a pinch financially (we all have been at some point), borrowing money to help get you past your difficult time isn’t usually the best solution. Even if it’s from someone you know well, and trust (like your family) it still does cause tension. The best solution, is to find another way forward (either by earning it yourself) or change the direction until you have the resources you need. I know that Dr. Denbouer wanted to share the details of his journey so that others could see where he made turns that sent him off course with his goals, so those listening can learn from his mistakes.


    1. Find a New Way Forward. We all get stuck, but when we know what we are meant to do, we must look for a new way forward. To see someone with years of work invested in his passion, lose their way, made me think of all the people who might have lost their way somehow during the Pandemic. I watched companies merge, and people being displaced, not sure of where to go next. I’m sure those of you listening could tell me a million stories, of loss and disappointment and as difficult times in our world continues, stories like John’s aren’t going to disappear. What I loved about this interview, is that Dr. Denboer is not giving up, and I know he will find a new way forward. He acknowledged how difficult it was, but he is clear on his direction, that his tattoo of his grandmother reminds him of daily. If you watch the interview, Dr. Denboer’s face lit up when he spoke about his grandmother, and what she represents to him. If you have something important to you, like Dr. Denboer, you too will find a new way forward, if you’ve been taken off track.


    Keep Learning: We know that our brain health is crucial for all of us to live up to our full capacity, and Dr. Denboer reminded us that good cardiovascular health will get us 60% of the way, but to keep learning and doing things that stretch our brain in the process.

I hope that you found Dr. Denboer’s story to be helpful. If you want to reach out to him, go to and send him a message. Like all of us, we could all use as much positive energy and love directed towards us, and our goals. I’ll close with a quote from Steve Jobs, reminding us that “What we’re doing here will send a giant ripple through the universe.”

See you in a few days.

Dr. John Denboer is a former clinical neuropsychologist specializing in the assessment and detection of early-stage dementia. He received his internship training at VA Boston Healthcare System (Boston University School of Medicine/Harvard University) and received his postdoctoral training at Barrow Neurological Institute. He has published extensively in the area of Clinical Neuropsychology and has been an expert speaker at many local, national, and international conferences. He is the Founder, CEO, and Chief Medical Officer of SMART Brain Aging, Inc., a company designed to help prevent and intervene in mild cognitive impairment and early-stage dementia. In the last 3 years, he has become a world-renown speaker in early-stage dementia detection and treatment. This has culminated in a Netflix documentary entitled “This is Dementia?!”[ix] as well as this book.


[i]The Top 5 Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies (Daily Exercise, Sleep, Eating a Healthy Diet, Optimizing our Microbiome, and intermittent Fasting).

[ii] Dr. David Perlmutter’s “Alzheimer’s: The Science of Prevention”

[iii] 10 Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms That You Should Know

[iv] Disrupting Dementia TEDxGrandCanyonUniversity John DenBoer April 10, 2017


[vi]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #219 Secret Millionaire Hilary Decesare On Her New Book Relaunch.

[vii] What Happens to the Brain in Alzheimer’s Disease

[viii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #84 PART 3 “How a SPECT Image Brain Scan Can Change My Life: Andrea’s Results”

[ix] This is Dementia Netflix Documentary