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Safety is critical in enabling humans to optimize their potential. The neurophysiological processes associated with feeling safe are a prerequisite not only for optimal mental health and social behavior, but also for accessing both the higher brain structures that enable humans to be creative and generative and the lower brain structures involved in regulating health, growth, and restoration. The Polyvagal Theory explains how social behavior turns off defenses and promotes opportunities to feel safe. It provides an innovative model to understand bodily responses to trauma and stress and the importance of the client’s physiological state in mediating the effectiveness of clinical treatments. Thus, interventions that target the capacity to feel safe and use social behavior to regulate physiological state can be effective in treating psychological disorders that are dependent on defense systems.
Dr Carter is the scientist who discovered the relationship between social behaviour and oxytocin. She will present information on the neurobiology of social bonding and love. She will explore how oxytocin is involved in regulating stress. Dr Carter’s research focuses on neuroendocrine systems and how these systems explain the positive impact on physical and mental health, social bonds and trusting relationships. Her work examines how oxytocin pathways are at the centre of physiological systems that enable human sociality. Oxytocin acts as a regulator of the autonomic nervous system to allow the high levels of social sensitivity and attunement necessary for human sociality and for rearing a human child.
You will learn about the unique actions of oxytocin, including the facilitation of birth, lactation, maternal behavior, genetic regulation of the growth of the neocortex, and the maintenance of the blood supply to the brain. Consistent with a Polyvagal perspective, oxytocin and vasopressin dynamically moderate the autonomic nervous system influencing vagal pathways and anti-inflammatory circuits that help explain the adaptive consequences of love, trust, and social behavior for emotional and physical health.
In the final session of the workshop Dr Porges will join Dr Carter to explore clinical applications and to discuss the dependence of autonomic regulation on oxytocin in the establishment of social bonds and in the regulation of stress responses in social contexts and focus on how oxytocin and vasopressin act as “neuromodulators” within the theoretical context of the Polyvagal Theory.
Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D., is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across several disciplines including anesthesiology, biomedical engineering, critical care medicine, ergonomics, exercise physiology, gerontology, neurology, neuroscience, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, psychometrics, space medicine, and substance abuse.
In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders. He is the author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation (Norton, 2011), The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, (Norton, 2017) and co-editor of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies (Norton, 2018). He is the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™ , which currently is used by approximately 2000 therapists to improve spontaneous social engagement, to reduce hearing sensitivities, and to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement.
More info about Dr Stephen Porges: www.stephenporges.com
Dr Sue Carter, PhD, is Director Emeritus of the Kinsey Institute and Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University Bloomington and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she co-directed the Brain-Body Center in the Department of Psychiatry. She formerly held the position of Distinguished University Professor of Biology at the University of Maryland and prior to that was Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Ecology, Ethology and Evolution at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr Carter is past president of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society and holds fellow status in that Society and in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award. She has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and edited 5 books including Attachment and Bonding: A New Synthesis (MIT Press, 2006). Dr Carter is the scientist, who discovered the relationship between social behavior and oxytocin. Her work examines how oxytocin pathways are at the center of physiological systems that enable human sociality.
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