Session: Social Work Neuroscience: Using Neuroimaging to Study and Address Social Problems (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

169 Social Work Neuroscience: Using Neuroimaging to Study and Address Social Problems

Thursday, January 21, 2021: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Symposium Organizer:
Jessica A. Wojtalik, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Joseph Himle, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Social work research is evolving with the use of technology, such as neuroimaging, to develop and optimize interventions for some of the most vulnerable and underserved populations. Indeed, many of the conditions treated by social workers are based in neurobiology, including severe mental illness and addiction. Neurobiological assessments provide an in vivo window to observe where, how, and to what extent biological changes, treatment parameters, and behavioral outcomes are connected. Accordingly, the integration of social work and neuroscience research is important because it is facilitating the development of more direct-acting and holistic treatments by equally considering the biological, psychological, social, and environmental characteristics of clients. This timely advancement in social work is in direct alignment with the long-held person-in-environment perspective, in addition to the 'Harnessing Technology for Social Good' Grand Challenge.

The current proposed symposium is the third of two highly-successful and well attended social work and neuroscience symposia presented at SSWR in 2016 and 2018. These symposia have gathered leading social work researchers using neurobiological assessments in their intervention research. The current symposium authors will present data from a range of neuroscience methodologies examining the biological, along with the behavioral, impact of social work interventions in vulnerable populations. The neurobioloical assessments include structural MRI of gray matter volume, functional MRI (fMRI) of brain activation, electroencephalographic (EEG) of electrical activity in the brain, and salivation as an indicator of autonomic nervous system response. The current symposium will also provide an update of recent advancements in this subfield of social work research and discuss how neuroscience-informed findings can be implemented to improve treatment.

Wojtalik and colleagues will present MRI data from a large sample of individuals with early course schizophrenia (N = 106) who participated in a multi-site randomized trial of Cognitive Enhancement Therapy (CET). This research examined the neuroprotective effects of CET on gray matter volume and subsequently linked such effects to functional outcome improvements. In a decade-long follow-up study of another trial of CET (N = 20), Eack et al. will present the first long-term follow-up findings of brain activation changes measured with fMRI 10 years after individuals with early course schizophrenia completed CET. Hanley et al. will discuss the impact of Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) on autonomic nervous system response changes measured with salivation among participants with chronic pain receiving long-term opioid therapy (LTOT; Study 1: N = 68, Study 2: N = 39). Lastly, Garland will present mechanistic evidence of reduced opioid dosing associated with increased frontal electrical activity measured with EEG during a randomized trial of MORE in veterans receiving LTOT (N = 62).

Overall, the findings from these studies increasingly support evidence that the brain is neuroplastic, reciprocally influenced by the social environment, and malleable to social work interventions. The integration of social work and neuroscience is leading to entirely new opportunities to enhance the daily lives of clients. We hope that attendees are surprised by the diverse application of neurobiological assessments represented and the feasibility of incorporating these neuroscience methods into their own research.

* noted as presenting author
Functional Significance of Gray Matter Volume Change during Cognitive Enhancement Therapy in Early Course Schizophrenia
Jessica A. Wojtalik, PhD, Case Western Reserve University; Matcheri S. Keshavan, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School; Shaun M. Eack, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
Neural Mechanisms of Long-Term Durability of Social-Cognitive Improvement during Cognitive Enhancement Therapy for Early Course Schizophrenia
Shaun M. Eack, PhD, University of Pittsburgh; Jessica A. Wojtalik, PhD, Case Western Reserve University
Conditioned Salivary Response to Prescription Opioid Medication As a Physiological Marker of Opioid Misuse That Is Modifiable with Mindfulness Training
Adam Hanley, PhD, University of Utah; Jamie Rojas, University of Utah; Eric Garland, PhD, University of Utah
Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement Reduces Opioid Use By Strengthening Brain Function
Eric Garland, PhD, University of Utah; Justin Hudak, PhD, University of Utah; Adam Hanley, PhD, University of Utah; Brandon Yabko, PhD, Salt Lake City VA Health System; William Marchand, MD, Salt Lake City VA Health System
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