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National scientific meeting on child mental health at Kentucky

As the nation observes National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day on Thursday, the University of Kentucky Center for the Study of Violence Against Children (CSVAC) will host national experts at the scientific meeting "From Neuroscience to Social Practice: Translational Research on Violence Against Children." The two-day event, being held May 7-8 in Lexington, Ky., includes the unveiling of research findings on violence against children that will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Loss and Trauma.

The scientific meeting is expected to draw a national audience of researchers, clinicians and policymakers, including state officials from the Commonwealth. Hosted by CSVAC, the event is dedicated to the enhancement of the health and well-being of children and their families through research, service and dissemination of information about child abuse and trauma.

The two-day program will include three major research presentations: "Relational Poverty and Vulnerability to Developmental Trauma: A Neurodevelopmental Perspective" presented by Dr. Bruce Perry, senior fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy in Houston; "The Importance of Early Experience: Clinical, Research and Policy Perspectives" presented by Dr. Charlie Zeanah Jr., executive director of the Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health at Tulane University in New Orleans; and "The Effects of Psychotherapy on the Adult Brain: Do they Apply to Children"" presented by Dr. Jerald Kay, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

All three research presentations will be followed by formal discussion sessions on the presenter's findings and how it will translate into practice at various levels.

Perry's research, "Relational Poverty and Vulnerability to Developmental Trauma" is developing ways to assess the health of a child's brain at an early developmental age. Secondly his research is looking at a variety of interventions, including creative and artistic forms of play, which target the areas in the brain that need the most attention.

Robert Walker, a researcher and assistant professor in behavioral science at UK's Center on Drug and Alcohol Research with conjoint appointments in the College of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry, describes Perry as moving toward the translation of neuroscience into clinical practice. Perry is encouraging the use of clinical practices that build on what is known about the environment/brain interactions in child development. His treatment approaches take into account the neurodevelopmental effects of abuse and severe neglect when working with children who have been maltreated.

"He is starting the dialogue on how we bring brain science into behavioral interventions -- one of the primary missions of CSVAC," said Walker.

"The Importance of Early Experience" is Zeanah's research on data from clinical, research and policy perspectives as it pertains specifically to the importance of early experiences. His findings argue in the clinical arena a liberal approach must hold sway, as specific treatment plans must be proposed and implemented for the patient as problems arise, while conclusions derived from research are inherently conservative and policy decisions tend to fall between the extremes due to funding priorities and the need for reasonable evidence before definitive answers are known.

The two-day scientific meeting will conclude with Kay's presentation on "The Effects of Psychotherapy on the Adult Brain" and its corresponding discussion sessions. Kay's research evaluates the challenges of translating of neurobiological findings to following psychotherapy in adulthood into practice in treatment of children. This research focusing on children comes on the heels of a newfound greater appreciation of the psychobiology of attachment and its disorders in adults, as well as an increasing sophistication in the study of gene-environment interaction.

CSVAC houses the Child and Adolescent Trauma Treatment Institute and is a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. The center is dedicated to the enhancement of the health and well-being of children and their families through research, clinical services and dissemination of information about child abuse and trauma. It is also home to UK's Comprehensive Assessment and Training Services project, a statewide translational research center within CSVAC that focuses on testing and refining best practices technologies in a "living laboratory" setting, then disseminating these practices to build community capacity to identify, assess and treat traumatized children and their families.


Contact: Whitney Hale
University of Kentucky

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