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SW 450 Special Topics in Social Work
Howard, LeAnn S.

Mission Statement: The mission of Park University, an entrepreneurial institution of learning, is to provide access to academic excellence, which will prepare learners to think critically, communicate effectively and engage in lifelong learning while serving a global community.

Vision Statement: Park University will be a renowned international leader in providing innovative educational opportunities for learners within the global society.


SW 450 Special Topics in Social Work:  Neurobiology and the Social Being


SP 2007 HO


Howard, LeAnn S.


Adjunct Faculty


Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist

Office Hours

Will arrange a mutually convenient time.

Daytime Phone



Semester Dates

January 16- May 11

Class Days


Class Time

11:35 - 12:50 PM

Credit Hours




Aging with Grace:  What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healther, and More Meaningful Lives.  Harpercollins Publ Ltd.  (Paperback)

 The Emotional Brain:  The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life.  Joseph LeDoux.  Simon an Schuster.  (Paperback)


Additional Resources:
  A number of the readings for the course will be on reserve in the library.  The syllabus will identify the readings.

McAfee Memorial Library - Online information, links, electronic databases and the Online catalog. Contact the library for further assistance via email or at 800-270-4347.
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Course Description:

Specialized study of a particular subject in social work, not otherwise available in the department. May be repeated for credit when topics are changed. PREREQUISITES: permission of instructor and at least junior standing and SW 205 Introduction to Social Work with a C or better. Variable Credit: 1-3 hours.

Neurobiology and the Social Being, introduces students to current research on the brain and emotion.  Students will study brain structure and organization, chronic stress and emotion, interpersonal neurobiology, brain plasticity, maternal stress and fetal programming, parental depression, abuse and early trauma.

Through an extensive literature review students wil become aware of the interlocking forces of physiology, emotion, interpersonal relationship, social context, and brain functioning.  Systems thinking and a strength-based perspective will be utilized to gain a complex view of abuse and neglect, early trauma, parental depression, divorce, loss, alcohol abuse, and life cycle changes.

This course will emphasize resilience, hardiness, and stress as positive forces for change.  Students will gain an awareness of the multiple factors contributing to emotional functioning and the multiple opportunities for enhancing brain and interpersonal functioning throughout the entire life cycle.


Educational Philosophy:
I will strive to reflect the principles inherent in equal, respectful, and open relating in a collaborative teaching environment.  I understand that while the individual responsibilities of each of us as student and teacher are somewhat different that each of us comes to the learning experience with our own unique contributions to make to the learning experience.  I have an open door policy and therefore welcome your coming to me directly if you are having difficulty with any aspect of the course.  I thik in such a respectful learning environment each of us will learn and gain from the experience.  I look forward to working with you and to engaging the world of ideas surround the brain and emotional functioning.

Class Assessment:

Your learning in this course will be assessed via the following assignments:

1.  Exams:  Two exams will give in class at mid semester and at the end of the semester.  The first test will cover the key concepts reviewed in the first half of the course including texts and assigned readings on reserve in the library.  It will be closed book, closed notes.  I will provide you with a study guide for this test.  (CO 1,2,3,4,5,6,)

2. Quiz:  There wil be one in class quiz.  This is marked in the syllabus and will offer an opportunity to accumulate extra-credit points.

3.  Selected Topics:  I will provide specific information onf the Selected Topics Paper and presentation in class.

4. Reflection Paper:  I will provide questions to guide your reflect on your own story of healing.

5.  Practical Assplications Paper and Brief Presentation:  You may work autonomously or with one class colleague to develop and present the practical application of course material to a selected topic.  You are expected to apply the concepts covered throughout the course.  Guidelines will be given for the assignment in class.  However, you will be required to submit a written proposal for your presentation.  If you choose to work as a team you will receive the same grade for your written analysis/proposal and presentation.

6. Class Engagement/Participation:  You are expected to fully engage in all aspects of our classroom learning experience. I will use the following criteria to assess and allocated points in this area:  1) actively listening to the instructor and classmates, 2) answering questions posed by the instructor that relate directly to the assigned reading, 3) asking questions and sharing your thoughts, feelings, and potential implications related to material being presented by instructor or as generated through your reading, 4) participating genuinely and enthusiastically in classroom activities and exercises. (CO 2,3,4)  


   It is important to me that you understand the criteria for grading and that you perceive this process as fair and reasonable.  I do not "give" grade.  Instead grades will be earned through performance. 


Assignment                                                  Points

 Exam One                                                   20                                 

Reflection Paper                                           20

Reflection Paper                                           10

Practical Application Project                          20

Exam II                                                         20

Participation                                                  10

Quiz                                                                5 (extra credit)

A= 90-100  B=80-89  C=70-79  D=60-69   Below 60=F



Late Submission of Course Materials:
Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date indicated on the course schedule.  In the event of absence you may submit the assignment electronically.  The student remains responsible for lost, misdirected or incompatible formatting of electronic submission.  In extenuating circumstances (as determined by the instructor) and with timely notification an exception may or may not be granted.  Assignments not submitted on time will receive a deduction of 10% of the possible score per day.  Please be aware that there is one extra credit quiz in this course.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:
In order to maintain a positive learning environment the following ground rules will be the norm for our interactions.  Personal perspectives will be valued.  Degrading or discriminatory remarks or behaviors are not acceptable.  Discussion will reflect an exchange of information, experiences, ideas, and opinion which foster critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis.  If you work in groups, it is the responsibilityh of the group members to delegate work.  All members of the group must presento n the project and all will receive the same grade.  Because of the sensitivity of the subject matter relevant for consideration in social work, respect, sensitivity, and confidentiality must be maintained.  Students need to arrive on time.  Students will not hold private conversations when a colleague is speaking. If a student's behavior is considered to be disruptive, the instructor will give that person the opportunity to modify the behavior without point penalty.  If the student's behavior continues to be disruptive they will lose all class participation points and be referred to the Office of Academic Affairs.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

Tuesday, Jan. 16 Introductions, Review of syllabus and course expectations

Questions for Discussion: Why study the brain as an aspect of understanding the
social being?

"What the Bleep Do We Know?" The movie


Thursday, Jan. 18 Broadening the View

"What the Bleep Do We Know" Finish the movie

Tuesday, Feb. 20 Brain and Family

Questions for Discussion: Compare and constrast the thinking of Darwin and
Freud in their approaches to behavior, feelings, and the brain. What is the
place of awe in the study of the brain and emotion? What do you think of
each of their perspectives today? What do physicists, neurologists, spiritual
teachers, mystics, and scholars have to teach about the interrelatedness of
all of life? What is reality? What paradigms govern your reality?

Reading: Eiseley, L. (1978). Science and the Sense of the Holy.
The Star Thrower, (pp186-201). Hartcourt Brace Jovanovich.
On Reserve

Konner, M. (1982). The Well of Feeling. (pp127-161). The
Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit.

Harper Colophon Books.
On Reserve

Tuesday, Jan 23 Structure and Function of the Brain

Prior to class:
Go to Google and look up brain, structure and function, pictures
Open Google images- open brain structure and function and view the
following: Brain Diagram, Limbic System Diagram, and Four Lobes Diagram

Read: Restak, R. (1984). The Enlightened Machine. (pp7-49).
The Brain, Bantom Books.
On Reserve

Thursday, Jan. 26 Structure and Function of the Brain, Contd.

Be prepared to take a short quiz on brain structures and functions. Focus
on the location and function of the structure of the limbic system.

Read: Siegel, D. (1999). The Developing Mind. (pp1-22).
On Reserve

Tuesday, Jan. 30 Emotional Brain

Discussion Questions: What is the significance of understanding
the low and high roads to the amygdale in fear conditioning? Why
is context important?

Read: Chapters 6-7 in LeDoux Text pp 138-178.

Thursday, Feb. 1 Emotional Brain Contd

Discussion Questions: Discuss the role of implicit and explicit emotional
memory in the brain systems of emotional memory and memory of emotion.
How do explicit memory and emotional arousal intersect?

Reading: Chapter 7 in LeDoux Text pp 179-224.

Tuesday, Feb. 6, Brain and Stress

For Discussion: What do you think are the policy and practice implications
of understanding that stress reactivity is transmitted in utero? What are
your thoughts about family violence and early traum development?

Reading: Meaney, M.J. (2001). Maternal Care, Gene Expression, and
the Transmission of Stress Reactivity Across Generations.
Annual Review
of Neuroscience.

Morse, R.K. and Wiley, M.S. (1997). Grand Central: Early Brain Anatomy
and Violence. (pp7-46). Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of
Atlantic Monthly Press.

Thursday, Feb. 8 Brain and Stress

For Discussion: How can understanding psychological stress be helpful in
reducing the stress response?

Read: Sapolsky, R. (1998). Why is Psychological Stress Stressful? (pp211-
228); Managing Stress. (pp309-319). Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. W.H.
Freeman and Company.
On Reserve

Tuesday, Feb. 13 Family and the Brain

For Discussion: Bring a simple diagram of your own family system. Identify
facts and patterns you see based on the reading. What do you see of your
own tendency when you are anxious? What are the implications of understanding
your own patterns when working with individuals, families, or groups?

Read: Kerr, M. and Bowen, M. (1988). Nuclear Family Emotional
Process. (pp163-220).
On Reserve

Thursday, Feb. 15 Family and the Brain

For Discussion: Be prepared to discuss your thoughts
about the basic premises of the two articles: the likelihood
that peripheral physiological processes the accompany birth
may also control attachment processes in the brain, that there
are neurochemical similarities between opiate depenence and
social dependence, and that all neurochemistries that normally
inhibit separation distress may also promote bonding.

Read: Panksepp, J. (1988). Love and the Social Bond:
The Sources of Nurturance and Maternal Behavior. (pp246-260);
Loneliness and the Social Bond: The Brain Sources of Sorrow
and Grief (pp261-279). Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of
Human and Animal Emotions.
Oxford Press.
On Reserve

Tuesday, Feb. 20. Brain and Family

Discussion: What are your thoughts about the many interacting variables that may contribute to the development of a symptom within a family or a family member? How does looking at multiple variables influence the options one has for assisting a family to heal themselves?


Reading: Kerr, M. and Bowen, M. (1988). Symptom Development, (pp256-281), Family Evaluation. W.W. Norton and Company.

On Reserve


Thursday, Feb 22. Brain and Family

Tape: There will be a videotape shown of one individuals' efforts to reduce their own symptoms through a way of engaging their family differently.

Discussion: What are your thoughts about the difference between diagnosing a family and family evaluation? How does keeping this distinction in mind contribute to maintaining a strength perspective in your work?


Reading: Kerr, M. and Bowen, M. (1988). Family Evaluation, (pp282-338). Family Evaluation. W.W. Norton and Company.

On Reserve


Tuesday, Feb. 27

Student Presentations and Papers on Selected Topics


Thursday, Mar. 1

Student Presentations and Papers on Selected Topics


Tuesday, Mar. 6

Student Presentations and Papers on Selected Topics


Thursday, Mar. 8

Student Presentations and Papers on Selected Topics


Tuesday, Mar. 13 Mind-Brain-Body-Family Evaluation


Discussion: What are your thoughts about the difference between understanding a connection between emotions and the immune system and holding a person responsible for developing a disease process?


Reading: Moyers, B. (1993). The Chemical Communicators: (pp177-192). Emotions and the Immune System (pp195-212). The Brain and the Immune System (pp213-238). Conditioned Responses (239-256). Healing and the Mind. Doubleday.On Reserve


Thursday, Mar. 15 Mind-Brain-Body-Family Evaluation


Read: Regulators of Physiology. (pp101-115). Family Systems

On Reserve


Tuesday, Mar. 20. Toward Wholeness


Read: Friesen, P. (2003). Emotional Cutoff and the Brain. (pp83-106). Emotional Cutoff. Haworth Press.

On Reserve

Time will be devoted to beginning a review for the final exam.


Thursday, Mar. 22. Toward Wholeness


Discussion: What are your thoughts about social support and physiology? What are the implications of play for increasing brain flexibility and healing?


Reading: Moyers, B. (1995). Self-Regulation (pp71-86)Therapeutic Support Groups. (pp157-176) Healing and the Mind. Doubleday.

On Reserve


Panksepp, J. (1998(. Rough and Tumble Play: The Brain Sources of Joy. (pp280-298). Affective Neuroscience. Oxford University Press.

On Reserve


Tuesday, Mar. 27 One Man's Story of Healing

Reading: Obama, B. (1995). Origins. (pp 3-129). Dreams from my Father. Three Rivers Press: New York.

On Reserve


Thursday, Mar. 29 One Man's Story of Healing

Reading: Obama, B. (1995). Kenya. (pp299-430).

On Reserve


Tuesday, Apr. 3 Telling your Story: Class Presentations


Thursday, Apr. 5 Telling your Story: Class Presentation


Tuesday, Apr. 10 Research: New Developments


Discussion: What is the place of basic research in developing a science of human behavior? Does becoming scientific about the human rule out the art of working with our fellow human beings?

LeAnn Howard will present her ongoing research with Dr. Deborah Gordon of Stanford University on harvester ants and links to other levels of biological organization including the brain.

Thursday, Apr. 12 Research: New Developments


Discussion: What are your thoughts about brain plasticity, resilience during aging? Do you think this applies throughout the entire life cycle?

Reading: Snowden, D. (2002). Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives. Bantom Books.



Tuesday, Apr. 17 Practical Applications Paper/Presentations


Pick an area of interest that is connected to the brain and emotion and give a 30 minute presentation about it to the class. Focus your presentation on practical applications. The assignment is open to any practical application of course material to a selected topic. Such areas could include but are not limited to: enhanced athletics performance and the brain, interacting with your family and the brain, spiritual life and the brain, neurofeedback as a tool to increase brain flexibility, stress as an avenue to increase brain functioning


Thursday, April 19 Practical Applications Paper/Presentations


Tuesday, April 24 Practical Applications Paper/Presentation


Thursday, April 26 Practical Applications Paper/Presentations


Tuesday, May 1 Practical Applications Paper/Presentations


Thursday, May3 Review for Final Exam


Thursday, May 10 Final Exam

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life.   Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87-89

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "W".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.

Park University 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog Page 89-90
Regular classroom attendance is both expected and essential for the attainment of course objectives.  Material not foundi n the text will be presented and discussed in class.  Absences detract from your learning as well as that of others.  

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: .

Additional Information:

Course Objectives:  It is expected that upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

1.  Demonstrate an understanding of brain structures that play an important role in social behavior
     of the human.
2.  Discuss the evolution of large brains and the extended family as a means of buffering an ever-
     shifting environment
3.  Describe the work of current contributions to the study of brain and emotion including:  Robert
     Sapolsky, Joseph LeDoux, Antonio Damasi, and Jak Panksepp.
4.  Demonstrate an awareness of family and societal forces as fundamental variables influencing
     brain functin, emotion, and physiology.
5.  Discuss mind-brain-body interaction of emotional challenge and the process of cultivating
     emotional resilience.
6.  Discuss the neural mechanisms underlying cognition including:  consciousness, decision
     making, and memory.
7.  Describe and demonstrate an understanding and application of knowledge about brain and
     emotion in working with individuals, families, and groups. 






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Last Updated:10/23/2006 11:12:32 AM