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  • 1. UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE COLLEGE OF SOCIAL WORK SW 593 Neurophysiologic Development in Social Work Online Self-Study Course (1 credit hour) Summer, 2009 Instructor: Rebecca (Becky) Bolen, Ph.D. 203 Henson Hall Email: Office Hours: By appointment. Code of Conduct It is the student's responsibility to have read the College of Social Work Ethical Academic and Professional Conduct Code that is in the College of Social Work MSSW Handbook ( The Honor Statement An essential feature of The University of Tennessee is a commitment to maintaining an atmosphere of intellectual integrity and academic honesty. As a student of the University, I pledge that I will neither knowingly give nor receive any inappropriate assistance in academic work, thus affirming my own personal commitment to honor and integrity. (Hilltopics, 2008). Disability If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a documented disability or if you have emergency information to share, please contact The University of Tennessee Office of Disability Services at 191 Hoskins Library (865-974-6087). This will ensure that you are properly registered for services. COURSE DESCRIPTION This course will examine neurophysiologic development. Neurophysiologic development provides a foundation for understanding the processes of human development and how these processes are influenced by culture and the environment. The course examines the effects of risk and protective factors at various ecological levels, such as attachment, poverty, and culture. This course also covers genetics and how genes express themselves as well as genetic potentials. Typical development will be covered as well as atypical developmental patterns that are consistent with neurodevelopmental disorders. Processes critical to human behavior and risk and resilience for vulnerable populations are emphasized to understand individual or family behavior. Content in this course will be illustrated and centered around a case study approach in which students read case studies that are paired with theoretical and research material. Class discussion about the theoretical and research material will be linked to case studies, and students will use theory and research to construct hypotheses about individual or family adaptation to the environment. In addition, students will practice forming research questions and going to the literature to assess what is known about their questions
  • 2. COURSE RATIONALE To practice accountably and effectively, social workers must be able to understand their clients and their presenting issues within their clients’ developmental contexts. In supportive environments, individuals flourish as they progress through developmental stages and stage- salient tasks. Other environments, because of risk factors associated with them, are less supportive of wellbeing. Even so, brain plasticity provides humans with an amazing capacity to adapt to these less supportive and sometimes frankly maladaptive environments, although sometimes at great cost to themselves. Especially for young children, the costs to the developing brain of less adaptive environments are profound because their brains actually become organized around repeated experiences within these less adaptive environments. Also, genetics play a role in terms of gene expression and potential in regards to these less adaptive environments. Neurophysiological changes and behaviors resulting from these earlier less adaptive environments are often conceptualized by clinicians as psychopathology or presenting problems of clients. Understanding human development as a series of processes mediated by the brain within an environment-dependent context profoundly reframes not only our understanding of our clients and their presenting problems, but also how to intervene appropriately with clients and their environments. This different understanding of human development also suggests the critical importance of effective prevention programs and social policies that promote wellbeing, as well as interventions directed at changing the larger environments of individuals. Thus, knowledge gained in this course will allow social workers not only to better understand, contextualize, and assess clients and their presenting problems, but also to develop more appropriate interventions, prevention programs, or policies for working with or for the benefit of clients and for the necessary environments to support human wellbeing. COURSE COMPETENCIES 1. Explain the roles of neurophysiology, adaptive and maladaptive environments, and experiences, including the effects of trauma and chronic stress, on brain development and the role of genetics and epigenesis in development during the sensitive period of the first three years of life and across the life span. (content: basic introduction to Mendelian genetics and the Human Genome Project; gene expression; effects of stress and trauma on hormones, brain development, and gene expression; effects of parenting on brain development and gene expression; Hobfoll’s conservation of resources theory). 2. Explain the interaction between nature (genetic potential of an individual) and nurture (effect of the environment on the individual) as it relates to cultural differences and disparities by race/ethnicity, class, sex, and sexual orientation. (content: traits, phenotypes, health disparities in race; kindling hypothesis; mundane extreme environmental stress; tend and befriend hypothesis; epigenesis; effects of early deprivation on brain development) 3. Explain how neurophysiological processes may place individuals at risk or, conversely, how environments of at-risk individuals contribute to neurophysiological processes that increase their levels of vulnerability. (Content: epigenesis, allostasis, attachment, stress, trauma, kindling; HPA axis; amygdala; pruning; synaptogenesis; windows of opportunity)
  • 3. REQUIRED READINGS There is no required text for this course. All readings and course materials are on the BlackBoard site for this class and can be downloaded or read from there. ORGANIZATION OF COURSE AND BLACKBOARD This is an online course that is in a primarily self-study format. Everything that you need for the course is online at the BlackBoard site for this course. You can gain access to the course site through To orient you to the course, the first class will be an online interactive format in which I will meet with the class online. During this time I will introduce you to the course materials on BlackBoard, assignments, and tools you can use on BlackBoard to make the class successful for you. It is hoped that by providing this online, self-study format you will be able to fit it to your schedule more easily. I will also be available online for one hour each week, during which time I can answer questions and discuss content further. Instructions for preparing for the online interactive format will be sent prior to the first week of class. Class content is divided into three groups—Genetics and Human Development/Behavior; Brain and Behavior; and Stress, Trauma, and Hormones. Course content may include readings, online lectures, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and web sites. At the end of each of these content groups you will have an assignment, with a further summary assignment for the course. CONTACT INFORMATION I attempt to remain readily available to students during the semester. If for any reason you are struggling, have questions about an assignment, need to let me know what is going on with you, or just want to talk, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am easily contacted by email and will reply as soon as possible. During the semester I monitor my email closely unless out of town. We can set up a phone conversation, meeting, or converse by email. PLAGIARISM It is assumed that all of your work is original and that you are aware of appropriate citation rules. If you are not completely familiar with citation rules, please review them at the UT Library web site: This web site has other tutorials as well on how to use the library effectively, search strategies, etc., that may be of help. Please be aware that copying material verbatim from the web is considered plagiarism unless it is appropriately cited as verbatim material. BlackBoard now provides the means for submitted papers to be automatically scanned to determine if they include plagiarized material. Please assume that your paper will be automatically scanned when it is submitted. If a significant portion of your paper will be or has been submitted verbatim or close to verbatim to other classes, please let me know.
  • 4. GRADING CRITERIA Discussion Board 1 25 points Discussion Board 2 25 points Discussion Board 3 25 points Final paper 25 points Final Grade The University of Tennessee does not award minus grades at the graduate level. Therefore, the following grading scale will be used for the final grade: 93 – 100 A 88 – 92 B+ 83 – 87 B 78 – 82 C+ 73 – 77 C 68 – 72 D+ 63 – 67 D <63 F ASSIGNMENTS Discussion Boards At the end of each of Units A, B, and C, you will engage with a small group (to be assigned) in an online discussion. The questions for Discussion Board 1 are related to genetic processes and the ethical considerations related to these; and the nature/nurture interaction and its implications for understanding social problems (CC 1, 2, 3) The questions for Discussion Board 2 are related to attachment and its neurophysiological processes and implications; brain plasticity; experience-expectant and experience-dependent; the aging brain; and kindling. (CC 1, 2, 3) The questions for Discussion Board 3 are related to the nature/nurture interaction; mundane extreme environmental stress; allostasis; and stress and trauma, their neurophysiological processes, and implications. (CC 1, 2, 3) The content for each discussion is provided on BlackBoard. The grading criteria for the discussion boards are as follows. 0 – 12.5 points inadequate participation & inadequate content in responses to discussion; 12.51 – 20.0 points adequate participation & adequate content in responses to discussions
  • 5. 20.10 – 25.0 points adequate participation & adequate content in response to discussions + evidence of critical analysis and critical thinking in response to discussion. Paper You will be presented with a vignette. Applying what you have learned in this course, you will then write a 5- to 6-page paper that applies a neurophysiological framework to the person in the vignette. Using this framework, you will attempt to make sense of the various dynamics and issues of that person. It is important not to force this framework upon the person, using it indiscriminately, but to apply it thoughtfully and in a manner that helps to make sense of the individual. The vignette, however, provides ample opportunities to explain current or previous issues within a neurophysiological framework. More instructions are provided within the vignette. (CC 1, 2, 3) Grading criteria for the paper are as follows: 24 – 25 points The paper does an exceptional job of understanding symptoms, issues, dynamics, and other mechanisms of the individual that could be explained neurophysiologically given the person’s history and development. The paper is insightful throughout, draws upon needed references, is well-organized with a high level of writing quality, and uses APA referencing style for sources. This grade is reserved for only those very few papers that demonstrate the highest standards. 23 – 23.9 The paper does a very good job of applying the neurophysiological framework while drawing upon needed references, demonstrates insight, is well-organized with a high level of writing quality, and uses APA referencing style for sources. This paper is considered to be of excellent quality. 21 – 22.9 The paper does a good job of applying the neurophysiological framework while drawing upon needed references but exhibits less insight and may not adequately draw upon needed references. It may suffer from a lesser quality of writing and organization. This paper is considered to be of average quality. 19 – 20.9 The paper doe not adequately apply the neurophysiological framework. It may be poorly written, may exhibit poor insight, and may fail to draw upon needed references. 18.9 & lower Papers with a grade lower than a 19 have significant problems throughout.
  • 6. SYLLABUS SUMMARY SYLLABUS SUMMARY Content Assignments Due Due Date A. Genetics & Human Development Discussion Board 1 June 9 B. Brain & Behavior Discussion Board 2 June 18 C. Stress, trauma, & hormones Discussion Board 3 June 26 Final Paper July 2
  • 7. A. GENETICS AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT/BEHAVIOR Part I. The Basics Optional papers and tutorials, based on previous knowledge of DNA, genes, chromosomes, protein, Mendellian genetics A guide to your genome. (2008). National Human Genome Research Institute (pp. 1-16) urGenome07.pdf Learn.Genetics (2009). Tour of the basics. A web-based tutorial. O’Neil, D. (2008). Mendel’s genetics. Required The brain: A roadmap to the mind. MSNBC. (This is a web site that demonstrates the different parts of the brain and their roles.) NASW (2003). NASW standards for integrating genetics into social work practice (pp. 1 – 20). Washington, DC: NASW Press. Hall, M. T., Scheyett, A., & Strom-Gottfried, K. (2008). No gain, no pain: Ethics in the genomic revolution. Families in Society, 89(4), 562-570. Strohman, R. C. (2003). Genetic determinism as a failing paradigm in biology and medicine: Implications for health and wellness. Journal of Social Work Education, 39(2), 169-191. Rothbart, M. K. (2007). Temperament, development, and personality. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(4), 207-212. Science Daily (Nov. 8, 2007). Genetics has a role in determining sexual orientation in men, further evidence. ScienceDaily (June 30, 2008). Homosexual behavior largely shaped by genetics and random environmental factors. Genetics Lecture by Dr. Terri Combs-Orme. Optional Learn.Genetics (2009). Genetic disorders library.
  • 8. Part II. The Human Genome Project Required Human Genome Project. This is the primary web site for the Human Genome Project. Please explore it to get a sense of what information is on it. U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs. Genomics and Its Impact on Science and Society: The Human Genome Project and Beyond. (PowerPoint slides). Optional U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (2006). The gene gateway workbook. Part III. Epigenesis Required Epigenesis Lecture by Dr. Terri Combs-Orme Learn.Genetics (2009). The epigenome at a glance. (video) PBS Nova (2007). Ghost in your genes (video) Watters, E. (November, 2006). DNA is not destiny. Discover, 33-37, 75. Harper, L. V. (2005). Epigenetic inheritance and the intergenerational transfer of experience. Psychological Bulletin, 131(3), 340-360. David, R., & Collins, J. (2007). Disparities in infant mortality: What’s genetics got to do with it? American Journal of Public Health, 97(7), 1191-1197. B. BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR Part I. Brain Development and Attachment Theory Required Lecture by Dr. Rebecca Bolen. DiPietro, J.A. (2000). Baby and the brain: Advances in child development. Annual Review of Public Health, 21, 455–471. Schore, A.N. (2000). Attachment and the regulation of the right brain. Attachment & Human Development, 2(1), 23–47. PBS (2002). The babies brain: Wider than the sky. (Video)
  • 9. Part II. Social Work Practice and the Brain Required Siegel, D.L. (2001). Toward an interpersonal neurobiology of the developing mind: Attachment relationships, “mindsight,” and neural integration. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1-2), 67-94. Cicchetti, D. & Cannon, T.D. (1999). Neurodevelopmental processes in the ontogenesis and epigenesis of psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 375-393. Waller, R.J. (2003). Application of the kindling hypothesis to the long-term effects of racism. Social Work in Mental Health, 3(3), 81-89. Part III. The Adult Brain Required Science Daily (June 18, 2008). Symmetry of homosexual brain resembles that of opposite sex, Swedish study finds. Park, D., & Gutchess, A. (2006). The cognitive neuroscience of aging and culture. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(3), 105-108. PBS (2002). The aging brain: Through many lives. (Video) C. STRESS, TRAUMA, AND HORMONES Part I. Stress & Trauma Responses Required Champagne, F.A. & Curley, J.P. (2005). How social experiences influence the brain. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 15, 704–709. Carroll, G. (1998). Mundane extreme environmental stress and African American families: A case for recognizing different realities. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 29(2), 271-284. Science Daily (June 18, 2008). Male homosexuality can be explained through a specific model of Darwinian evolution, study shows. Lecture by Dr. Rebecca Bolen
  • 10. Part II. Effects of Stress & Trauma Required Perry, B. D. (2002). Childhood experience and the expression of genetic potential: What childhood neglect tells us about nature and nurture. Brain and Mind, 3, 79- 100. McEwen BS. & Wingfield, J.C. (2003). The concept of allostasis in biology and biomedicine. Hormones & Behavior, 43, 2-15. Taylor, S. E. (2006). Tend & befriend: Biobehavioral bases of affiliation under stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(6), 273-277. Part III. Long-term Effects of Stress & Trauma Required Engel, S.M. et al. (2005). Psychological trauma associated with the World Trade Center attacks and its effect on pregnancy outcome. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 19, 334–341 Skillingstad, C. (2006). Adverse childhood experiences: ACE study. PowerPoint presentation for videoconference at Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota. Felitti, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2003). The relationship of adverse childhood experiences to adult health status: A collaborative effort of Kaiser Permanente and The Centers for Disease Control. PowerPoint presentation at Symposium Strafrecht en Forensische Psychiatrie, of the Amsterdams Centrum voor Kinderstudies, ACK Vrije Universiteit Transitorium.