This symposium assembles leading social work neuroscientists in the field to present the latest data on the reciprocal impact of social work interventions and the social environment on the brain and body. The focus of this symposium will be both informative and educational, in that new data will be presented within an accessible framework that also seeks to educate the audience on incorporating neuroscience measures in their research to help address applied social work questions. Multimodal neuroimaging data from independently conducted randomized-controlled trials and family studies will be presented to examine the impact of social work interventions for addiction and schizophrenia on the brain, as well as the contribution of mother-daughter relations to corticolimbic brain development.
Eack and colleagues will present novel data from a randomized-controlled trial (N = 41) showing that Cognitive Enhancement Therapy can improve long-range brain connectivity in people in the early course of schizophrenia. Black will introduce a comprehensive family study (N = 67) demonstrating the intergenerational transmission of emotion regulation neural circuitry from mothers to daughters with implications for treating mood disorders. Garland will present the results of a large randomized-controlled trial (N = 115) of Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement for opioid misuse showing reductions in attentional reactivity and autonomic response to drug cues, along with increased brain function toward natural, non-drug rewards. Finally, Matto will present data showing reduced neural response to drug cues in reward and emotion processing networks in a third randomized trial (N = 29) examining dual-processing therapy for substance use problems.
Taken together, these diverse biobehavioral studies of brain function, structure, and connectivity demonstrate how applied social work research can be enriched by incorporating biological measures. The results of these studies add support to the growing body of evidence indicating that the brain is plastic, malleable by social work interventions, and reciprocally influenced by the environment, underscoring the importance of a biopsychosocial approach to social work research and practice.