SEE March Newsletter for discussion of transitioning to remote teaching


When a Neurologist becomes a classroom teacher, Brain Learning Research promotes teaching strategies.

This website features the insights, publications, and presentation schedules pertaining to parent and teacher strategies to ignite student learning.

Dr. Judy Willis, a board-certified neurologist in Santa Barbara, California, has combined her 15 years as a practicing adult and child neurologist with her teacher education training and years of classroom experience. After five years teaching at Santa Barbara Middle School, and ten years of classroom teaching all together, in 2010, Dr. Willis reluctantly left teaching middle school students and dedicated herself full-time to teaching educators. With an adjunct faculty position at the University of California, Santa Barbara graduate school of education, Dr. Willis travels nationally and internationally giving presentations, workshops, and consulting while continuing to write books for parents and educators. She is an authority in the field of learning-centered brain research and classroom strategies derived from this research.

Her articles about the neurology of learning have been published in her six books and numerous educational journals. Dr. Willis is a speaker at national and international professional educator conferences.


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This website is named for Dr. Willis' emphasis on teaching practices that engage the heart and mind to challenge all students to their highest potentials. The letters represent parts of the neural system particularly active in learning and memory:

Reach (Reticular Activating System,)
Attitude (Amygdala )
Develop (Dopamine)

Contact Dr. Judy Willis at

To receive her periodic newsletters, links to articles of interest or to raise questions, offer ideas or express concerns:

Please include your
-email address

Upcoming Webinars

The Teen Brain: Challenges, Powers, and Big Time Motivators: Learning and the Brain Seminar: Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed. May 15, 2021.

Learning and the Brain Institute set for June28-July 2, 2021

Judy and Malana Willis

Neuroscience for Optimal Learning: Strategies for Developing Students' Attention, Emotional Strengths, Memory, and Executive Functions
Online Institute June 28-July 2, 2021

Now available free online. ASCD Webinar. Judy Willis, M.D. & Malana Willis. 
Presented April 30

Unlocking Emotional Blockades: Neuroscience-Based Tools to Optimize Self-Regulation and Joyful Learning.

Newsletter Updates

March - Transitioning to On-line Learning

Psychology Today Blog March 30

 Coping with your kids' transition to home & on-line learning


Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from Neuroscience and the Classroom, Revised and Expanded Edition
Free Chapters and Study Guide

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Co-author: Malana Willis

Upgrade Your Teaching: Understanding by Design Meets Neuroscience by Jay McTighe and Judy Willis, M.D.   Annual Editors’ Selected ASCD Membership 2019.
Free Chapter 1, 3, and Study Guide


Unlock Teen Brainpower: 20 Keys to Boosting Attention, Memory, and Efficiency. Judy Willis, M.D. November 2019. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing: Lanham, MD

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How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Based Ways to Ignite Learning and Increase School Success. Foreword by Goldie Hawn. Sourcebooks: 2008.

Prior Books

Inspiring Middle School Minds: Gifted, Creative, And Challenging. Great Potentials Press, 2008

Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student Attitudes and Get Results, ASCD 2010

Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom, ASCD 2007

Teaching the Brain to Read: Strategies for Improving Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension ASCD August 2008.

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Nurturing Habits of Mind in Early Childhood by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick just released by ASCD. Available to read: Chapter 1. Brain Development in Children 2 to 7 by Judy Willis, M.D.

NBC Education
NBC News Education Network Twitter Chat: Dr. Judy Willis featured on Twitter Chat about: MOTIVATING Learners. March 19, 2019. use the hashtag #ToolkitTalk

The Key to Motivating Students: The Brain + Beyond: View the compiled tweets from Tweet Chat for tips on motivating kids with Dr. Judy Willis @judywillis and JenniferMiller@JenniferSMiller presented by NBC News Learn@NBCNewsLearn #ParentToolkit, #ToolkitTalk  

NBC Education Nation Webinar for Educators and Parents: Using neuroscience knowledge to help build children's brain powers for jobs of the future. Mar 14, 2019 and remains Available on Demand for viewing by registering®Tag=&sourcepage=register

Newsletters -
link here

Sign up for Newsletters
Contact Dr.Willis at

Check out the Publication Page
Over 150 linkable articles
pertinent for teachers and parents

Newly Revised
The Links Page -
all the links you need

New Photos
Notable Events

Some Really Great New Blogs - see Publications

Interviews - See Interview Page
Mind Up
Swedish TV
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The Guardian
The Science Of Homework: Tips To Engage Students' Brains
Monday 23 February 2015

The High Cost of Neuromyths in Education`
Edutopia January 16, 2015

“Meet Dr Judy Willis, EDUTOPIA Staff Blogger”

Three Questions To Consider Before You Give A Test. TeachTought Issue 03/16/2014.

Risk-taking and the Teen Brain. Education Nation Parent Toolkit Blog Nov. 3, 2014 Dr. Judy Willis

Many New Articles for 2014/2015
In addition to the above you can find links to other of my articles.
Click on the
Publications page on the right column either on the top or bottom of the page depending on your operating system.

Keynote Address in Hong Kong - links

Strengthening Students Executive Functions: Video of Dr Judy Willis Opening Keynote  International Conference on 21st Century Learning Hong Kong December, 2014 via @YouTube

An Interview with Dr Judy Willis: 21st Century Learning Conf Hong Kong via @YouTube

Jay McTighe - Comments re Influence of Judy Willis

7-short Video Clips: Learning and the Brain
Dr. Judy Willis
from St. Michaels University School March 2013
Link Here to youtube

Judy comments on Video Games
Wall Street Journal - 2/22/2014

Nice Reviews
Review from Laguna Beach
Learning to Love Math
Inspiring Middle School Minds

NBC News Education Nation Expert for Parent Toolkit  
See comments from Judy
Good Praise, Bad Praise for NBC News Education Nation: Jan 2014

Workshops - I am available for workshop and presentations
Link here for topics and detail

Recent National Publications quoting Judy

Cover story Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine:
Flipped Out:
How the digital revolution is turning learning upside down (interview comments)
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Wall Street Journal article (in the online and print June 12 editions), by "Work & Family" columnist, Sue Shellenbarger includes my interview responses.
about how parents can best respond to children’s complaints of boredom.
USA Today Quoted in article July 3, 2013 Brain stimulation at any age can slow memory decline

NBC News Education Nation Expert for Parent Toolkit

Live Interviews and Presentations:

Australia ABC show Lateline Judy Willis, MD interview scroll to “Neuroscientist explains how to stimulate young brains”

TEDx Enola Video. Dr. Judy Willis Feb 1, 2010 "From Neuroscience Lab to the Classroom" Link here

See Presentations Page for schedule of upcoming and past presentations

Jay McTighe and Judy Willis Workshops and Co-presentations
What the Brain Needs to Learn Best and
How to Provide It with Understanding by Design

We continue to co-present workshops and presentations about the insights from neuroscience and cognitive science research regarding brain-optimal learning and how to use UbD to plan curriculum, assessments, and instruction that provide these optimal learning opportunities. Most recently our three-day preconference workshop at the ASCD annual convention in Philadelphia was our best yet! You can contact us directly to arrange for one at your school, district, or conference: and

See conversation with Judy and Jay re CollaborationMCTIGHE & WiILLIS PHOTO FOR WEBSITE

Co-presenters in Vienna, Austria 3/2013
Venice International Schooll Mar 2013

Exciting Information
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See links page for new staff blogs

Judy Willis is an

Edutopia’s “Big Thinker on Education
“Change starts with an idea. That was true of the American Revolution and the microchip. It's equally true of the big changes that the American public education system is just starting to make. And despite the headlines, some of the most exciting minds are focusing their attention on the world of education.Take a look at some of the most innovative, surprising, intriguing, and inspiring ideas from some of the biggest thinkers on education.”

View 7 Video Chapters of Dr. Judy Willis’ “Big Thinker in Education” Interview:

The Big Thinker video interview is divided into 7 1-2 minute segments by topic. From “Big Thinker” Judy Willis page , scroll down the bar to the right of the video/photo and you can open each section by name:

-Meet Judy Willis, Neurologist Turned Educator
-The Science of Boredom
-Creating Curiosity in the Classroom
-Focusing Students' Attention in the Classroom
-The Importance of Creating a Safe Environment
-Lessons Learned from Video Games
-Preparing Students for the 21st Century

Judy’s New Position: EDUTOPIA Staff Blogger Read her first blog and watch her video, A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool

Edutopia Blogs by Judy

Neuroscience and the Bilingual Brain
Rewire your Burned Out Brain
Educations BIG BANG

Judy Willis’ Blog Feed Link:

Psychology Today - Staff blogs
Provocative Thoughts
Link Here and go to More of Radical Teaching

Lower Canada College Video Interviews
Six Part Video Series from Lower Canada College 2011: One on One with Dr. Judy Willis, MD, M.Ed.: Helping Students Develop Their Highest Cognitive Potentials
Part 1: Combining Neurology and Teaching
Part 2: Adolescents Brain Development Influences Learning
Part 3: Why teach students about their brains
Part 4: How to teach students about their brains
Part 5: Building Executive Functions for Future Success 
Part 6: Parenting to build executive functions

New Articles -
look under publications for links to several new articles

Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student Attitudes and Get Results, Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher ASCD July, 2010.

This book uses math as an example because it is the subject with the most negativity, but the book is about neuro-
logical strategies for changing student negativity to motivation and promoting growth mindset in any subject or school in general.

Free chapters and study guide download at: link here

Recent Events:

See Notable Events for Recent Photos

Hanoi 2017
Pix Judy World Bank for website Hanoi Mar 1 2017 a

Brazil 2016
Aprender conf argentina...I can get full name if needed

2012 Invitations for Educators: Readers of my Books and Attendees of my Presentations/Workshops

Here are the Internet Links to what I’ve been calling my “Brain Owner’s Manual” that has now been published in Educational Leadership and is available on line as a two part article/pdf (you can also link directly from the publications-articles portion of this website)

Internet Links to Brain Owner’s Manual
Willis, J.A. (Dec. 2009) How to Teach Students About the Brain. Educational Leadership. 67(4) Online Link Here

Willis, J.A. (Dec. 2009) What You Should Know About Your Brain. Educational Leadership. 67(4) Online as an illustrated downloadable PDF to use in teaching students about their brains at: Link Here

An open Invitation

Sign up for RAD e-newsletter twice a year, copy of How to Teach the Brain to Motivate Students (Brain Owner’s Manual, Judy’s article from Educational Leadership, and updates on articles and new ideas. XXLink to Contact FormXX

Santa Barbara News Press Feature

Deserving of a gold star: Actress and local neurologist collaborate on innovative project for children


American Academy of Neurology -
Member Spotlight
AAN News - June 2010
link here to read

Keep Igniting,
Judy Willis

Link here to review 10 key concepts presented by Dr.Willis

Link to Judy’s Staff Blogs (really mini articles about education, neuroscience, and child development) for Psychology Today
Link here

Video Interview from ASCD with strategies from Learning to Love Math: Teaching Strategies that Change Student Attitudes and Get Results - Math Interview

Hot Topics - Link to Psychology Today Blog Posts

What to do when Your Child Hates School 7/18

Want Children to “Pay Attention”? Make Their Brains Curious! 5/9

Why Healthy Teenagers Die 2/6

Book released - Aug 2008 - How Your Child Learns Best - Sourcebooks

Book released - Aug 2008 - Teaching the Brain to Read - ASCD

Book released - Mar 2009 - Inspiring Middle School Minds: Gifted, Creative. Challenging

Book released - July 2010 - Learning to Love Math

Winter/Spring Musing

See Discussions for recent interesting news

Watch Dr. Willis Discuss Topics

Link to View

Parent and Child Magazine 2/2009

---- 10 Great Tips for Parents - -- link

A comment: “I continue to be stopped in the hallways of throughout our school by thankful teachers – everyone is so very excited to have had a view into the brain by which to better understand learning and thereby, instruction. It is at the heart of what we strive to do everyday! Thank you again for impacting the educational vision of the country. (High School Principal, Washington State)”

Contact: Judy Willis, M.D., M.Ed. at