Cognitive health is our shared responsibility – where culture, lifestyle, and innovation unite to shape a future free from the shadows of neurodegenerative diseases. In this episode, we have Dr. Tanisha Hill-Jarrett, neuropsychologist and a Global Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at the University of California San Francisco. Today, Dr. Tanisha shares how our lifestyles, behaviors, and even culture play pivotal roles in shaping our brain health. She shares her research on how gendered racism and coping mechanisms can impact cognitive health, offering a perspective on the interconnectedness of mental wellness and societal factors. Dr. Tanisha also touches on Afrofuturism, a genre that reimagines the future with Black culture at its heart. She dives into its role in envisioning a world where racism is eradicated. Don’t miss this inspiring episode that touches on healthcare, culture, science fiction, and the limitless potential of human evolution. Tune in now to learn more about the future of neuropsychology and race.

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The Future Of Neuropsychology And Race – A Conversation With Tanisha Hill-Jarrett

I have Dr. Tanisha Hill-Jarrett. She’s a neuropsychologist and expert in the intersection between racism and how it affects your health. Welcome. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into this?

My name is Tanisha Hill-Jarrett. I’m a neuropsychologist and transitioning to an Assistant Professor position at the University of California, San Francisco. I’m interested in all things related to Black women’s wellness, in particular, factors that impact their cognitive aging and how they can live long healthy lives.

I’m personally interested in it as a Black woman. I come from a Black woman and a family of Black women. These topics are near and dear to my heart. I’m also largely interested in it because I know that Black women are at high risk for neurodegenerative diseases. I’m interested in looking at the factors that impact that risk, but also promote resilience and allow Black women to live well.

Racism is a tough topic. I want to put it as a caveat if I say anything inappropriate. I apologize and I hope everything is done with grace and fluidity, but I’m a human being. I hope that we can talk about things in a free and open manner. First off, I did want to talk with you and ask you specifically about how racism affects someone’s health because it’s something that I learned about a little bit in medical school. Tangentially, like pulse oximeters were made, that’s how you measure blood oxygen levels for people who don’t know.

They are originally made for fair skin types. They are not as accurate. There are certain medications that have different effects on different races but from a broader perspective and certainly also a more specific perspective with neurodegenerative disease. What are some things that you are seeing that affect a person’s health and also have an intersection with the race that they are associated with?


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It’s important to zoom out and look at the different levels of racism. Racism can impact people systemically or at the macro level. There’s the meso level. There’s the micro level, which is more interpersonal experiences of racism. I focus primarily on the macro systemic as well as interpersonal, so person-to-person contact and experience is of racism.

At the macro level, what we talked about are the social determinants of health, which are the places that people live in, where they work, where they grow up, and how that sets them on a particular trajectory for wellness and health or illness. What we see is when we look at the macro, or the systemic issues. There are systems and policies in place that influence where certain people based on race and ethnicity what they have access to, the types of jobs that they work in, and the neighborhoods that they live in. This, in turn, influences their health.

One good example of this is looking at residential segregation based on redlining and the policies that influenced where people were able to live. For instance, that may influence access to green space that may influence access to where you have grocery stores. Some people may live in food and desserts. The policies at the policy level trickle down to influence a person’s lived experience in the environment. That may influence what they have access to an intern and their health at a larger scale.

You have interpersonal experiences where people are actors or actors of racism. That also is a certain type of stressor and we know that stress has a negative impact on the body and in particular the brain. Chronic stress, stress over time, impacts the hippocampus, and we know that people who experience either repeated stressors or chronic stressors experience atrophy, so shrinkage of the hippocampus. That’s a region that’s critical for memory. People with Alzheimer’s disease in particular experience atrophy and changes in their hippocampus over time. There are a number of linkages, so related to structural issues as well as interpersonal day-to-day experiences of racism.

Let’s talk a little bit about the micro level first before we zoom out again. When you are talking about neurodegenerative disease, do you find a higher incidence of this stuff in different racial groups or different demographics?

What we know in the literature is that African-Americans are about 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. That’s all including vascular dementia. We also know that Latin X people of Latino backgrounds are also at higher risk as well compared to White Americans.

Is that because of physiology? What do you attribute that to?

There’s a lot of research going on to understand how biology interacts with the environment. Initially, people thought it was related to just APOE4. People have the APOE4 allele. White Americans have an exponentially higher risk.

For those who are familiar, that’s a gene that codes for lipoprotein, correct?

I believe so.

You are dusting off some old cobweb in my brain now. This is not my area of expertise. I just wanted to make sure other people were familiar with that. Anyway, they thought initially it was because of this gene, correct?

In White Americans, we see that there’s a higher risk, but it also relates to racism as well in science. A lot of the research studies have been focused on primarily White samples. A lot of what we know about Alzheimer’s disease, the risk factors, is largely linked to our understanding of aging White adults. Initially, the thought was that this APOE4 increased the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, which it does for a subset of people, but how it relates to other populations, we are still trying to figure that out.

My point is that it’s not exclusively linked to biology because the APOE4 allele doesn’t operate in the same way in other populations. What we are seeing is that it’s the interaction of our biology with the environment and our lived experience is as well as you know, the ways that we are taking care of ourselves in our overall health and how we maintain our health over time that sets us up on this trajectory to develop neurodegenerative diseases.



It’s multi-factorial, and physiology might not be the only smoking gun that connects this. What are some social contributors that you found in your research?

One of the things is education. Education is critical. There’s this concept called cognitive reserve. The initial thought was that the higher education you have, the more resistant you are to the abnormalities that happen in the brain that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau, but what research by Jennifer Manly, who’s a neuropsychologist at Columbia.

She showed, “It’s not necessarily the quantity or the number of years of education. It’s about the quality of education that a person has.” The reason that’s important is when you think historically in the United States and even in the present day, there are different places in the quality of education. When we think historically, Black Americans in the South in particular lived in segregation. They went to segregated schools, which also impacted the quality of the education that they experienced.

For that reason, you can have a person for instance that has a high school education but that doesn’t equate to the same high school education out West or up North. For that reason, their buffer or their ability to withstand the abnormalities that are developing in the brain is less. They may experience the onset of neurodegenerative disease like your ability to withstand the pathology is not the same, it’s less. Your onset of symptoms may occur sooner.

You can have two people that have a high school education. Both have the same amount of beta-amyloid in their brain but one person may not manifest those clinical symptoms of a neurodegenerative disease. We think that’s because the way reserve operates is based on actual quality, quality of education, and quality of experiences that you have had throughout your life.

I want to get back to that. As you were talking about the beta-amyloid, I heard about this controversy and I don’t know if this is a real thing, but you are in the field. I feel like I wanted to ask you specifically about it. Have you heard about this controversy with the gentleman that did a lot of research on Alzheimer and a lot of it is now found to be not accurate?

Yes, at Stanford. Is that what you are talking about?

Something like that. About how amyloid was not the smoking gun that it was. I found, specifically for Alzheimer’s, there was a certain amount of research that is like foundational research, that has been found to be not accurate or potentially fabricated. I’m not sure but I know you are in the field, so I wanted to ask you specifically about that.

It’s interesting because I feel like there’s a camp of people that think it’s the beta-amyloid. There’s a camp of people that also think it’s tau. Both happen and people experience changes in both of those proteins. That contributes to neurodegenerative disease but it’s a question of which one is the thing that’s the impetus and what should we be focusing on.

In regards to that particular person, to be honest, I didn’t read their papers but I did hear about the controversy. My understanding is that somebody reviewed it and said that they didn’t fabricate the research, but they were negligent in how they oversaw it. They were involved in manipulating the data now. Not sure. I don’t know if that’s true or not or if it was that reviewed things, but it was a very controversial thing.

That’s one of the things. I have this and you alluded to it too. The new model of scientific research is not as clear-cut as we once thought it was. Not only from a plagiarism or fabrication perspective but I know a lot of people that are getting their research from the internet that are getting it from questionable sources. Also, like what you alluded to, a lot of it is based on a certain demographic. My background is in the head and neck and the anthropometric measurements of what we consider to be ideal or based on the white European model.

I feel like is I’m talking about is that there’s this larger distrust with the scientific community that’s out there now. I worry that it’s not particularly helpful to people like you and me who are trying to get the word out for this stuff. Are you getting some of that pushback from people that you interact with? Is that something that maybe I’m noticing and it might not be accurate?

I think what you are saying is accurate. After I answer the question, I also want to speak to the pressures of just being in Academia, in general, and how that may contribute. I do think that there’s generally a mistrust, a medical mistrust, and mistrust of the scientific community. I’m speaking again from an African-American perspective, given that’s my experience, but also the community that I work with.

That’s also largely rooted in medical racism and some of the stuff that you have mentioned. A lot of what we know from science is rooted in Western European ways of knowing. Also, if you think about the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment. There have been a number of ways in which science has mistreated people from the Black American community and exploited them. If you think about Henrietta Lacks, and how they used cells to make a discovery, but they took her cells without her even knowing like without her consent, essentially. Things like that create this culture of mistrust. It’s up to us, as clinicians and researchers to bridge that gap and to rebuild trust with these communities.

There is this culture of mistrust and it’s really up to us as clinicians and researchers to bridge that gap and rebuild trust with these communities.

I feel like faith in institutions is at an all-time low, in general. That leads to my next topic which is, as someone who’s not familiar, what are the institutional contributors to poor health outcomes in disparate demographics like in different races? Also, follow-up questions to that. When you are talking about poor health outcomes specifically in neurodegenerative diseases, can you talk a little bit more about some of your research and how the social constructs have led to these issues?

The big picture, there’s a lack of faith in institutions. There are problems with that. How does that affect different races? As you had talked about, there’s inherent distrust within the African-American community because of the Tuskegee experiments because of Henrietta Lacks, which for those of you guys who don’t know. It’s this woman who contributed cells to stem cell research and has not gotten any compensation or these cell lines keep on reproducing. Am I saying that correctly?

They took them without her knowing. It doesn’t even that she voluntarily came. It may have been that they were doing a medical examination and they extracted that information or that data from her, then you make scientific discoveries.

That is there. We know that it’s there. What are the downstream effects from a public health perspective in general, if you have any information about that? I know that’s not specifically your area of interest, but that’s number one. Number two, are you seeing any of that specifically with neurodegenerative diseases?

I can speak to that with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, what we know, and in certain racial and ethnic minority communities in particular Black Americans. They oftentimes present clinically with symptoms of dementia way more advanced than other groups. They have more severe cognitive impairments at the time that they are getting medical attention.

A lot of the narrative around that has been focused on maybe Black Americans and these other minoritized groups aren’t aware of the symptoms. That can be part of it, but the other larger issue that is now being discussed more is the fact that the system isn’t acknowledging the symptoms. In particular, when I think about maternal health outcomes. When Black women are coming and presenting clinically and complaining of certain things or reporting specific symptoms. Their symptoms aren’t taken seriously. They are sent home. They are not treated appropriately and they end up dying.

Now, with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, part of the issue is that there’s gatekeeping. Oftentimes, people are presenting to their PCPs and reporting symptoms. It’s up to the PCP to refer them to a specialist. Either a neurologist or neuropsychologist for follow-up evaluation and those things that pathway to getting the diagnosis and having any intervention or psychosocial support isn’t happening. Either they are not being referred or sometimes, people are presenting to the emergency room.



That’s the other thing that we are seeing a lot of times. These communities are receiving care in emergency room settings then that’s it. There’s no real follow-up or continuity of care. That’s also impacting how far along symptoms are developed when they are getting the care that they need if they get care at all.

How much of this is based on race and socioeconomic status? As outside or looking in, I see people in the emergency room and socioeconomic status is a huge factor for us with all of the problems that you said. I feel like that cuts across races and maybe your information might give us a different view of that.

The two intersect. Socioeconomic status is important. It impacts access to insurance, whether you are receiving care at a public hospital, what that looks like, and the amount of time you have to wait to receive care. From an insurance standpoint and maybe even quality of care or the type of care that you receive, SES is important. That also intersects with race, because at the end of the day, people have inherent biases. Clinicians have their own biases.

You see a person’s race. I know people like to act their color blind or they don’t see race or color. That’s something that we see and that people respond to. It’s up to medical providers and clinicians to be aware of that and to acknowledge it as a real thing. Knowing that, what are you doing with that information or how are you trying to combat these biases? What does that mean for the type of care and the culturally competent care that you are providing to patients? I think that SES impacts a person’s experience within the healthcare system, but it also intersects with the person’s race.


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Is there any objective data that you can highlight that might prove your point? For example, giving a person’s socioeconomic status, being equal between, let’s say somebody that’s Brown skinned versus Black skinned versus White skinned. Are the health outcomes worse in those different demographics respectively?

I’m thinking of a study. I don’t know if they controlled for socioeconomic status or if they matched people on that, but I’m thinking of a research study. It was recent which is scary, where they asked medical students to rate people’s pain tolerance or assess a person’s pain tolerance.

I remember that study.

They thought that Black people had a higher pain tolerance. These are people who are medically trained. I don’t if they factored in SES into that, but that’s like a real-world example of how race and medicine aren’t always. I don’t say, it’s not acknowledged, but it impacts people’s medical decision-making, unfortunately.

I hear what you are saying. I feel like race is such a tough topic because there’s no real good answer. I have read that study, where people have this inherent bias like, “Why does that exist? I don’t know why that exists. Do you know why that exists? Why is there that in here?” I grew up in a time when we had a Black president.

Theoretically, the outcome should be equal, but then there’s a study that came out as you said that says that, objectively medical students were having a different set of symptoms based on race. I want to feel like this is getting better. Is there any objective evidence to highlight that things are getting better, specifically from the intersection between race and health? Are health outcomes getting better in general for African Americans or Latino Americans? I feel like things must be.

People are living longer and because I studied neurodegenerative disease. Our society is aging. We are an aging population. It gives us the opportunity to study these conditions and how they disproportionately impact people. While people are living longer, we see that certain groups of people are more afflicted with conditions.

It goes back to my original point that it’s not solely related to how well you care for yourself or even genetics. It has to do with the environment. To your point, I don’t want to sound negative about everything because I do have a certain level of optimism. That’s rooted in the fact that we need to make policy-level changes. There are changes in policies that trickle down like that macro level that can have this trickle-down filtered effect but until then, I don’t know that we are going to see huge strides.

I don’t know if you have been following the news but the Congressional meeting on UFOs happened. They had these people who sat down and basically gave their evidence for why they think that UFOs are the big thing. That’s something in science fiction that has been very much a monumental shift in humanity’s stock prices. Once we realize that there’s another species that’s also intelligent, then we are going to look at each other and be like, “Where the same species, right? Why are we fighting against each other?”

I agree with you, there has to be some monumental shift. I don’t know what that is, but I think that health outcomes must be getting better but there’s still ways to go. I don’t know if there’s any particular evidence on that because it’s not something that I follow, but I hope that they are going in the right direction. What gives you some hope? I feel like it’s very difficult to see this information especially being a Black woman yourself and seeing all of these things that you have to go through that other people may not have to do. Is there anything that gives you hope that things might turn out okay?

In spite of all the things that we have discussed, racism and issues with the healthcare system. There are people that are still living. It doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom for everybody. There are people that are thriving. There are people who are still living long meaningful lives that have families and have a sense of purpose and are able to, I don’t say they inflate themselves from all the stuff, but they are still able to have meaning and thrive.

In spite of all the things with racism, issues with the healthcare system, and so on, there are people who are still living. In all doom and gloom, there are still people that are thriving.

Are you familiar with Thomas Sowell, the African-American writer? No? He was a gentleman, I think he was from California, but he was very focused on the cultural contribution to poor outcomes for African-Americans versus everyone else. For example, you take somebody who is African-American and has been raised here in the United States. Let’s say in Mississippi or Alabama, then you compare those outcomes of achievement to an immigrant population like somebody who came from the West Indies.

The West Indies families or groups tended to outperform the people who are born like multiple generations here in America. Again, I’m not an expert on this, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Is that, the cultural contributions of these poor outcomes were significant enough to be addressed? The cultural contribution of a distrust of the education system was enough that provide for poor outcomes for this population versus that population. As opposed to the West Indies population, they had this idea of prizing education.

That’s when you have these high-achieving African-Americans in that specific population. I don’t know if that’s something that you have personally felt, but it’s something that is coming up specifically in regards to what I see on a regular basis, which is a difference in health choices, which is something that I see on a regular basis.

For example, the choice in diet as opposed to a lower socioeconomic status person versus a higher socioeconomic status person. A lower socioeconomic status person is most likely to have higher rates of obesity. They are more likely to smoke. They are more likely to do other things that contribute to poor health outcomes. What are your thoughts on that? Do you feel like that’s a contributing factor or do you feel like that is not accurate?

I’m not familiar with the person that you mentioned and his specific work, but my understanding of what you are describing is called the Immigrant Paradox. The immigrant paradox, where people that immigrated to the United States and my understanding is they may not even have the same level of resources, but their health outcomes are better than the minority communities here in the United States. Now, there’s a lot of research going on as to why and what that means. Even what it means to lack resources in your home environment. I don’t know what the explanation behind that is.

Do you think it’s a contributing factor? Do you think that culture is such that it’s something that we should also focus on? There are certain aspects of culture that are negative that contribute to poor health outcomes.

Do you mean like health behaviors?

Yes. Is that also a contributing factor for neurodegenerative disease?

Health behaviors impact a person’s trajectory. I don’t think it’s the end-all-be-all, but it contributes. There’s a research study that shows 40% of dementia can be reduced through these health behaviors and these modifiable risk factors, so things like diet and exercise, sleep, and social stimulation, versus being socially isolated.

Are you engaging and cognitively stimulating activities as well as education? All of these things that we have, to some degree, influence over, it does impact our cognitive aging trajectory and can reduce or increase our risk for dementia. If you are asking whether or not that may differ across cultures, that’s a good question. I’m sure there are people that look at that and how that relates to being an immigrant. I’m not as familiar with that literature.

My sister is also a physician. She sent me this article about specifically Indian-Americans like myself that people from South Asia have higher rates of diabetes than the general population for whatever reason it is. A lot of it is because this is the article’s premise. The culture of eating a lot of carbs like rice is our general go-to for any meal. There is bread and stuff like that, but the fact is that it’s usually a high-carb meal.

There’s this idea that was ingrained in us when we were under British rule. There was a lot of malnutrition or the reason for us to eat this like high carb meal. Now you come into a time where that’s not necessarily the case anymore. We are not expending that amount of energy and therefore, we get insulin resistance and diabetes.

The article’s premise was that this is something that is part of our culture that we need to change like we need to talk about why our food is so bad. I feel like that’s something that I would hope that more research comes out about because so much of lifestyle factors are contributors to support health. It’s so easy to say, “You need to eat better.” If I’m going to a family function and there’s a ton of great Indian food. I’m not going to choose a chicken breast and salad.

That’s a cultural contributor that’s setting me up for failure, in my opinion. I don’t know how much research is out there. I didn’t know if there was anything specifically with neurodegenerative disease. I feel like smoking is something that contributes to neurodegenerative disease. There’s a certain amount of cultural influence to it. Is there any objective data about that? I know that there are certain cultures that are more predisposed to smoking than others. Specifically smoking, is there any objective data about the influence of culture and the risk of that?

Can I go back as you were talking about the diet piece? It made me think of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. That’s something that’s recommended. It can bring help. There has been a study that shows people in the Mediterranean have a lower incidence of neurodegenerative disease, eating fish, berries, and nuts. Following that particular diet plan may be beneficial for brain health over time.

That’s one thing clinically that we tell people. It’s called the Mediterranean diet. There’s also the DASH diet. Sorry, I didn’t get what you were asking initially about the influence of culture, but there are culturally specific factors in terms of the diets that we eat and the activities that we do that can influence the risk for neurodegenerative disease.

There’s no way that I’m going to be able to convince my grandmother to eat a Mediterranean diet. It’s not going to happen. She’s going to eat Indian food until the day she passes on, and that’s so significant to her. She is so used to living this way and that’s one of the things that I wish that there was more research on, like how do you convince somebody to live differently? Even if it’s like smoking.

There are so many smokers that I see, and I diagnose with some end-stage health outcome that’s poor, like cancer. They are still going to smoke afterward. That’s an interesting topic to me. I feel like with you, you are going more upstream and seeing all of these different contributing factors from a bunch of different levels. At the end of the day, it’s up to the person to change their lifestyle.

As a psychologist, I’m also very interested in person-level factors that influence decision-making, essentially. One of the things that I look at is coping and what it sounds like to some degree. Sometimes, food is a form of coping for people. I’m thinking in particular about the research study that I did. It was with Black women looking at the relationship between gendered racism and their report, their subjective report of cognitive concerns or the number of cognitive concerns that they may have. What we found was that across the life course, we had them rate their experiences of gendered racism, so crosscutting racism as well and sexism across their life course. Those who reported higher rates of gendered racism had more cognitive concerns.

Sometimes, food is a form of coping for people.

This relationship was explained through symptoms of depression. Depression was a mediator of that relationship, and then a coping style. We looked at different coping styles among the women. We looked at problem-solving, so we were focused on the problem and getting to the solution. We looked at disengagement, which is denying that there is a problem, and engaging in substance abuse to distance yourself from the problem.

We looked at social support as a form of coping, disengagement, social support, and problem-solving, and we looked at spirituality as a form of coping as well. We looked at those four, and what we saw was that disengagement explained that relationship. Depression as well as disengagement among Black women explained the relationship between gendered racism and the number of cognitive complaints they had.

What we thought was why not spirituality? Why not these other more positive forms of coping? Why disengagement? What we think is that disengagement, unfortunately, is helpful in the short-term with dealing with problems. It distances you from the issue at hand, but if you are in an environment that’s stressful long-term and you continuously engage in that pattern of behavior, that’s when it’s going to have some detrimental impact on you. To bring it back to what you are saying, for some people, smoking and engaging in unhealthy eating habits may be a form of coping. There’s an important person-level factor that contributes to this, cultural but also individual choice and lived experience as well.

If you’re in an environment that is stressful and you continuously engage in unhealthy patterns of behavior in the long term, then that’s when it’s going to have some sort of detrimental impact on you.

When you mean disengagement, you mean they didn’t talk to anybody.

Acting like, “Everything is fine.” Not opening up to share, “These are about things that are happening to me.” It was a questionnaire that they filled out. Some of the questions also asked about substance abuse using alcohol. Smoking may have been on there, but that also is a form of disengaging from the problem to escape whatever your reality is at that moment. What we found was, for those people, more gendered racism was associated with higher levels of disengagement and that, in turn, predicted a higher number of cognitive complaints.

That’s interesting because I am particularly interested in how the social fabric of our country is changing. Honestly, the world is changing with the advent of the internet and social media. We are dealing with a lot of different social environments that we weren’t necessarily equipped to handle. I was talking with an anthropologist on the show. He was saying that the height of our capacity for human beings was during the Stone Age. That was when we were the healthiest, largest, and all this stuff. I feel like so much of our evolution was based on survival in that. Now, we are being bombarded with all these new things that we are not necessarily evolved to handle.

The family structure that we have and the social structure that we have are so important for many different reasons. We don’t even realize that. Something like what you are saying, it might be more difficult for these people to handle the stresses of racism. Also, the stress is in general. That’s when your family is so important, and it’s becoming less important as the internet and social media become such a prevailing presence.

I did talk with it just to not be super pessimistic about it. I did talk with the guy who was a sociologist and he’s saying, “Now, we are coming full circle. The internet is providing a certain amount of opportunity for us to get to know people that we otherwise would not get to know.” We are reforming our society into our little communities on the internet, which is cool. You have the ability. If I’m into anime or something like that, I can find my little niche of people that only talk about anime. That becomes a safety net for me, socially, that I might not have had access to through my family or my community.

I’m thinking, to your point, the positive impact, because the internet and social media can help or hurt. It’s about you using it intentionally like having intentionality behind how you use it. Its purpose was highlighted during the pandemic, when a lot of people were socially isolated and we weren’t able to go outside and see people that we frequently have contact with. The internet gave us the opportunity to still experience some form of connection, relating to people and having those shared experiences. Is it a replacement for in-person interaction? It’s not, but it can be utilized in ways that are helpful. It can be used as a form of social connector as well.

The internet and social media can either help or hurt. It’s really about you using it intentionally.

We are talking. You are halfway across the country, and I’m able to gain some insight from a topic that I am not an expert in. That’s a profound benefit. Personally, as technology becomes more significant and now especially with augmented reality and virtual reality, I hope that it just increases the social bonds that we have as a society.

Anyway, this was great. I enjoyed talking with you. We are getting to the end of our time. I always try to follow up with three questions as we are talking. I would like to expand more on but I don’t want to contribute to the end of the conversation. I did want to ask you for me. One of the things that I always ask all my guests is, where do you get your inspiration from? For me, it’s science fiction. When I look at the amazing things of the future, I can’t wait until I have a robot butler or flying cars or any of this cool stuff that I hope is coming down the pipeline. What do you gain inspiration from? Is it any from media or books or movies or anything like that?

I get inspo from art and Afrofuturism, which is a form of art.

I wish that we would have talked about that. Can we talk a little bit more about that? Tell me a little bit because I didn’t even know. The only introduction that I have to Afrofuturism was through the Black Panther movies, which is this idealized version of one type of African experience. What do you mean by that? I’m naive to this whole concept.

Afrofuturism is considered an epistemology or a way of knowing as well as an artistic genre that explores the Black cultural experience through science fiction, technology, and mysticism. It puts Black people at the center and makes them the storytellers of not only the past, and the present but also the future.

I’m very interested in that as a tool for wellness and healing in the Black community. Some of the work that I’m doing with older Black women is focused on centering the lived experience of aging Black women as the story writers of the future and thinking about what’s in store for the future and what society look like if racism wasn’t a thing. What would that look like? How would that feel? What needs to happen for us as a society to get there? That can be expressed through writing and literature. Octavia Butler, I don’t know if you are familiar with her like the Parable series.

That’s so interesting, and I want to read her. Is that the first person you thought of that would be a good introduction for someone like me?

It’s in the music genre. He’s a jazz musician. It’s infiltrated all different genres but it’s like a way of knowing but also a form of art.

I wish we would have spent an hour talking about Afrofuturism. You’ve got to come back on the show and we are going to talk about Afrofuturism. Get yourself an Afrofuturism friend and we are going to talk about Afrofuturism. I do have one question. Have you seen that episode of Atlanta? Where there’s a reparations bill that happens and it’s like everything is flipped? Have you seen that at all?

No, but I was interested in mentioning reparations as a form for what could happen in the future and where the future is going.

When you said Afrofuturism, I didn’t know what it was that you were talking about. I was thinking about just Black Panther, which is a great movie. Anyway, the point is that Atlanta, you got to check it out. Everything you were talking about was in this episode. Personally, it’s one of the best shows on television ,and I’m a huge fan of that show.

Anyway, next question, I feel like we could go on forever about that. One of the things that we talked about was specifically neurodegenerative disease. This is something you are interested in. In your field as a big coming-up breakthrough, is there anything that’s coming up that’s gaining a lot of traction or buzz? It is a big disease. It affects a lot of people and now we are living longer. People want to have the same brain capacity that they had when they were younger. Anything that you can talk to me about that might be something that I could check out that holds promise in giving us that lifestyle?

I don’t want to say it’s a little bit controversial but there are a number of clinical trials that are happening now in the field, focused on aducanumab and donanemab. The thought is they removed the beta-amyloid that accumulates in the brain which leads to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. When they look at the efficacy, it’s minimal, to be honest, but some people are hanging their hats on it as this could be the future. It’s showing promising results.

That’s one potential avenue. Thinking about the future, I’m very hopeful that knowing that a lot of this is based on lifestyle and things we can address this ourselves. It may not even require medication in the future. We can modify our risk of having dementia by how we eat the environments that we are in, and the way we interact with one another. That also may be a critical thing for people moving forward.

That is the 21st century model of healthcare. The 21st century I feel like was treating sickness. In the 21st century, at least the people that I follow are all about preventing sickness and maximizing lifespan and productivity. Achieving the most that a human being can achieve. I’m excited and interested in that. One of the things that we talked about is all so racism in general, like the systemic issues that affect different demographics. In ten years, where do you see us? Do you see us making progress? Where do you see the idea of racism several years from now?

I’m hoping for there to be changes at a policy level, impacting people’s access to resources. Again, thinking like higher level macro. I’m thinking changes in education, housing, healthcare, and all of these things will have trickle-down effects on people’s health. Ultimately, having access to resources is what essentially people need. It’s the differential access to resources that’s contributing to the disparities that we see in these diseases.

This is my theory but we are due for a mind shift like I was talking to you about with this whole aliens thing that is happening in Congress. If we can understand that we are all the same species, these differences are skin deep. That’s going to be the big thing and the change in mindset. I’m hopeful that’s going to happen. Growing up, you could tell me that I was going to have a Black president, and I wouldn’t necessarily believe you.


FSP - DFY 21 | Neuropsychology


Growing up even as a young Indian kid, I don’t think that I would had any idea of the amount of representation that I see that’s out there now, even from my own experience. I think things are getting better, and it’s just going to happen. We are not going to be able to pinpoint when it’s going to happen but it’s going to happen organically. Anyway, this was a nice conversation. We have to have you back on to talk about more about Afrofuturism. For the readers, thank you so much. Please like and subscribe. We will see you in the future. Thanks, everybody. Have a good one.


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About Dr. Tanisha Hill-Jarrett 

FSP - DFY 21 | NeuropsychologyDr. Tanisha Hill-Jarrett is a neuropsychologist and a Global Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at the University of California San Francisco. Her research focuses on measuring and tracking how intersecting systems of racism and sexism impact cognitive aging and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias among Black women. She seeks to identify strategies, centering Black women, to build a future rooted in equity. She develops community-oriented programs that use Afrofuturism and creativity as tool for Black women’s brain health and wellness.


By: The Futurist Society