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Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, episode #85 with Dr. Sarah McKay, an Australian neuroscientist, speaker, author, media personality and founder and director of Think Brain and the Neuroscience Academy suite of training programs whose purpose is to explain the brain so you can apply neurobiology to your life and work, which is exactly what we are focused on with this podcast. You can watch the YouTube interview here. 

My name is Andrea Samadi, and if you are new here, I’m a former educator who created this podcast to bring the most current neuroscience research, along with high performing experts who have risen to the top of their field with specific strategies or ideas that you can implement immediately, to take your results to the next level.

I encourage everyone who wants to learn more about the brain to go to Dr. McKay’s website[i] and learn more about her books, online courses, workshops, writing, teaching and online training programs that she has created so you can easily access, understand and implement evidence-based neuroscience strategies into your everyday life and work.

But here is where things get exciting. You’ve GOT to watch Dr. Sarah McKay’s TEDx on “Indulging Your Neurobiology[ii]” that has over 27,000 views. I’ve seen Sarah speak many times over the years, and most recently just last week, as she was a speaker in Helen Maffini’s Preschool Neuroscience Summit[iii] where I also spoke, so I watched her session to get some ideas for how I would connect her knowledge, to the topics of the podcast, to help those listening understand her knowledge and insight as she is an expert on “explaining the brain” and then applying brain strategies to your life. You’ll learn more about Dr. McKay’s TEDx, her most recent book, The Women’s Brain Book, and some important brain strategies that I have picked out that I think we all should be aware of.

Welcome Sarah, it’s wonderful to speak with you in person after following your work since I first heard you speak on John Assaraf’s Brain-a-Thon in 2017. I just had no idea until I was preparing my questions for you, that your work would tie directly into what I am working on right now.

Before we get to the questions, I’ve got to tell you that the first minute of your TEDx Talk, I almost dropped my pen as I was taking notes, as it is all about the importance of sleep, or taking naps, and our brain health. The last 3 podcast episodes I’ve done, were about the importance of getting a spect image brain scan, if you want to optimize your results by looking at your brain, and in EPISODE #84, I share the results of my brain scan from Dr. Amen’s Clinics that revealed my brain might be showing areas of cognitive weakness due to not enough sleep. We can hear strategies to improve our brain over and over again, but unless we actually begin to implement them, we will not have the opportunities that comes along with enhancing the brain.

Intro question: I know we’ve heard it over and over again, but coming from an expert on explaining the brain, can you explain, why is sleep so important for our neurobiology?

Q1: Sarah, I just love your work, but I also love the story behind you that you can see on your website “about[iv]” section.  I relate to it, partly because I would love to live on the beaches of Australia, but also, it was a book that changed the direction of my life. How exactly did Oliver Sack’s book impact you so profoundly that you became fascinated with the human brain that launched you into the work you do today “explaining the brain” with your books, presentations and courses?

Q2: I was reading your book this weekend, The Women’s Brain Book: The Neuroscience of Health, Hormones, and Happiness[v] and it caught my eye in chapter 2 on childhood, the question “Are resilient children born or made?” especially since resiliency was a part of my spect image brain scan results (Dr Amen measures resiliency as a part of brain-health) and t’s a topic we have covered on a few different episodes, specifically with resiliency expert Horatio Sanchez on episode 74[vi] who talks about the risks facts that predict resiliency. I know that we all want to raise resilient children who can bounce back after challenge and adversity, and we want it for ourselves as well. So what is the secret to raising adaptable, resilient children, who don’t get easily stressed who you say “are like dandelions: (where) they’ll grow and thrive anywhere.”  (Page 56 of The Women’s Brain Book).

Q3: Since depression and anxiety are at an all-time high these days, with a rise in cases since the coronavirus pandemic, I wonder if you can share what you know about this topic. Can depression be seen in the brain? What does it look like, and how does the depressed brain work? How is it different from an otherwise healthy brain?

Q4: The whole reason why my husband and I went to Dr. Amen’s Clinics and got our brains scanned was to optimize our health by looking at our brain. What do you think are some of the most important things we should ALL be doing to optimize our brain health? What are some practices that you are focused on to keep your brain healthy? I know you are going to talk about the staple strategies like eat healthy, exercise, and getting more sleep, but I wonder specifically as an expert on “explaining the brain” what are you doing?

Q5: Is there anything I have missed that you think is important?

Thank you so much Sarah, for your time today. If someone wants to learn more about you, they can go to (to apply Ns to your life)  and learn  how they can access your TEDx, books, and online courses.


The Orchid and the Dandelion | Thomas Boyce | TEDxPaloAlto YouTube uploaded May 24, 2019

ENIGMA: Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics Through Meta Analysis

FREE TOOL KIT  to gain access to the FREE applied brain science tool kit where you can discover how to use neuroscience wisely.



[ii] Dr. Sarah McKay “Indulging Your Neurobiology” YouTube uploaded May 29, 2015

[iii] Helen Maffini’s Preschool Neuroscience Summit


[v] The Women’s Brain Book by Dr. Sarah McKay (March 2018)

[vi] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast episode #74 with Horatio Sanchez