Brain on Stress: How Behavior and the Social Environment "Get Under the Skin" (1 CE)
Course Level: Beginner
Course By: Jennifer Kolb, LCSW
Jennifer Kolb, LCSW; Social Work Consultant, reviewed and determined the course meets requirements for continuing education in the field of social work. This course is appropriate for masters and clinical level social workers. Jennifer graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She specializes in school-based psychotherapy with children and adolescents, as well as licensing exam coaching and preparation.
Content By: By Bruce S. McEwen, PhD. Bruce S. McEwen, PhD, is the Alfred E. Mirsky Professor of Neuroscience and heads the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University. As a neuroscientist and neuroendocrinologist, he studies environmentally-regulated, variable gene expression in the brain. His laboratory discovered adrenal steroid receptors in the hippocampus in 1968. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Council on the Developing Child. Dr. McEwen served as President of the Society for Neuroscience in 1997-98.
Course Delivery: Online, Self-Paced
The brain is the central organ of stress and adaptation. Brain circuits are remodeled by stress so as to change the ability to self-regulate anxiety and mood and to perform working and episodic memory, as well as executive function and decision making. The brain regulates the body via the neuroendocrine, autonomic, immune, and metabolic systems, and the mediators of these systems and those within the brain and other organs activate epigenetic programs that alter expression of genetic information so as to change cellular and organ function. While the initial active response to stressors promotes adaptation ("allostasis"), there can be cumulative change (e.g., body fat, hypertension) from chronic stress and a resulting unhealthy lifestyle ("allostatic load"), which may lead to disease, e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease ("allostatic overload"). Besides early life experiences, the most potent of stressors are those arising from the social and physical environment, and these can affect both brain and body. Gradients of socioeconomic status generally reflect the cumulative burden of coping with limited resources, toxic environments, and negative life events, as well as health-damaging behaviors that result in chronic activation of physiological systems and lead to allostatic load and overload. Can we intervene to change this progression? After describing the new view of epigenetics that negates the old notion that "biology is destiny" and opens new avenues for collaboration between the biological and the behavioral and social sciences, the author summarizes some of the underlying cellular, molecular, and neuroendocrine mechanisms of stress effects on brain and body. The author then discusses integrative or "top down" approaches involving behavioral interventions at the individual level that take advantage of the increasing ability to reactivate plasticity in the brain.
- Evaluate the central role of the brain in the protective and damaging effects of the mediators of stress and adaption
- Evaluate effective interventions for promoting mental health
Course materials can be downloaded or read online. To receive a certificate of completion, you must complete an online multiple-choice post-test with a score of 75% or better and complete an online course evaluation.