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December 2010 CTA Newsletter
CTA Welcomes Steve Graner to Group of Fellows
Epigenetics - Understanding the Complex Consequences of Trauma


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This month, our Translational Neuroscience mini-review topic is Epigenetics and is an very brief introduction to an area we will revisit many times over the next few years.  This mini-review by Erin Hambrick can serve as a good starting point for anyone feeling a little intimidated by the sometimes jargon-filled discussions of this very important topic. We are also very pleased to introduce Steve Graner as a new CTA Fellow.  He will be actively involved in the CTA's emerging efforts to bring developmentally-informed, trauma aware programs and practices into traditional educational settings.  As the year ends, we encourage any interested parties to take advantage of the variety of web-based trainings we will be offering over the next year.  The CTA is making progress on our web-based NMT Metrics and we will share that progress with you in our next newsletter.

S. Graner

CTA Welcomes New Fellow - Steve Graner
     Steve Graner is currently in his 32nd year of teaching English at Erik Ramstad Middle School in Minot, North Dakota.  He grew up in Bismarck, ND, received his Bachelors Degree from the University of Sioux Falls, and completed his Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Minnesota State University Mankato.  Mr. Graner has also coached cross country and track and field for the past 33 years, receiving Coach of the Year honors in ND for both high school and middle school cross country.
     Mr. Graner is best known for his creative approaches to teaching and coaching and combines a love of the arts and sports with the passion for pedagogy.  He has written several one act plays for schools and churches, most of them musicals, and he established the Ramstad Coffeehouse, a yearly celebration of poetry, music, mime, and dance.  He was awarded the North Dakota Reading Council's Literacy Award in 2009 for his efforts in inspiring literacy through the arts.

     Mr. Graner is currently an adjunct faculty member at Minot State University, where he has taught composition and served as facilitator for the Summer Institute and Advanced Institute of the Northern Plains Writing Project, a satellite of the National Writing Project.  Along with teaching partner Crystal Halseth, he is now piloting a course through Minot State called "The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics in the Public School." 


Epigenetics: Understanding the Complex Consequences of Trauma

    Can famine, paternal smoking, maternal stress, child trauma and neglect, and other environmental stressors alter the genetics inherited by our children, and then by our children's children?  A simplistic view of natural selection would say "no" - that genes are slowly "selected" and passed on based upon well they give adaptive advantage in a species over many generations. This basic principle is accurate but incomplete. Over the last twenty years, a variety of innovative studies show that genetic expression, or whether or not a gene within a individual's DNA gets turned "on" or "off," can be directly impacted by environmental influences. Additionally, these influences can be passed trans-generationally, meaning that genetic expression within a family can be changed (and possibly for good) in ONE generation and then passed to the next generation.  In other words the experiences of the parents - or even grandparents - prior to conception can influence the genetic expression in the offspring. The study of this set of complex mechanisms is termed "epigenetics" and the complex proteins and structures involved in regulating gene expression that are impacted by experience are referred to as the epigenome.

     When we are conceived, each of our cells (which are stem cells at that point) has the potential to become any type of cell - neuron, kidney cell, skin cell, etc.  Internal and external "triggers" during development communicate to each cell where it should migrate and what it should become.  Most cells only use 10% of their DNA once they have migrated (Utah Genetics, 2010).  The unnecessary DNA is silenced, or made dormant, by signals from the epigenomes that sit atop our DNA just as the necessary DNA is activated.

     So what happens when environmental stressors are unnatural and create conditions under which a person must cope in biologically unexpected ways?  Epigenomes are forced to change to promote immediate adaptation.  However, our knowledge about the stress response system has taught us that what is immediately adaptive is not always ultimately adaptive (i.e., adaptive in the long term).  For example, the way the body stores food when little food is available allows a person to survive for a season but may create genetic susceptibility for diabetes or obesity in his or her offspring.

     Surely, in the same way that epigenomes can be negatively affected, they can also be altered in a positive manner.  Proper nutrition, exercise, social support, and medical care can re-set our epigenomes so that our DNA can function in a healthy manner.  Further, the study of epigenomes may lead to new discoveries in health such as how to turn "off" cancer cells and turn "on" cells. Certainly over the next ten years as a more complete understanding of transgenerational trauma and the effects of intragenerational trauma emerges, epigenetic factors will be important.

For more information, see:

Sweatt, J.D (2009) Experience-dependent epigenetic modifications in the central nervous system. Biol Psychiatry 65:191-197

Cloud, J. (January, 2010). Why your DNA isn't your destiny. TIME Magazine.

The University of Utah's Genetics Website

CTA News
Last month, we inadvertently left Pamela Segel off the list of new IC Phase I Participants.  Ms. Segel is an Independent Contractor in Albuquerque, NM specializing in Early Childhood Development and Austism.  Welcome, Pam!

See the list of all Individual Certification NMT Participants on our website's Partner Page.

Two New Upcoming Training Series

Winter 2011 NMT Case-Based Training Series - Begins January 7, 2011

          We are currently accepting applications for our Winter 2011 NMT Training Series.   This training experience is part of an ongoing clinical care conference series offered by the CTA.  This teaching model has been useful for helping clinicians and front-line staff better understand the neurodevelopmental principles involved in many of the primary symptoms as well as strengths in the children they serve.  This practical teaching model provides an opportunity for ongoing capacity building within an institution or for individuals.
          We recommend this series as a complement to any more intensive training/program development projects that our partners have with the CTA. However, individual and institutional participation does not require any other program development activities or projects with the CTA and can serve as a good introduction to viewing maltreated and traumatized children through the "lens" of neurodevelopment.


There are now TWO WAYS to participate in our NMT Case-Based Trainings:  Live or Recordings Only (viewable via the Internet).

1. ATTEND LIVE - via the Internet.  All sessions take place on Fridays at 11:30am CST.

2. WATCH RECORDINGS of the live sessions - via the Internet.  View whenever you wish. Stop, pause and/or replay each session. Recorded sessions are available the very same day that each live session is conducted.  This method is a COST SAVING option --  and ideal for groups working at more than one location as well as participants with hectic schedules or residing in different time zones (we're CST)!
See 2011 Winter Schedule & Enroll here.

CTA/Take Two NMT Case-Based Training Series - AUSTRALIA - Begins Jan. 13, 2011

        This winter we are very pleased to offer an NMT Training Series especially for those of you in Australia.  Co-sponsored by Take Two, Berry Street, this series will follow our usual case-based model conducted via the internet.  However, these sessions will take place at NOON EST (MELBOURNE) - a new convenience for participants in this region of the world. 

A RECORDINGS ONLY OPTION will also be available (see above) for more convenient viewing.  This series is also open for participants outside of Australia. 
See 2011 AU Schedule & Enroll here.

LIVE Presentations
We have added several new onsite presentations and trainings to the calendar. 
Click here to see an updated list of talks.
We at CTA want to wish you Happy Holidays and thank you for all that you give to us.

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Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
The ChildTrauma Academy