Darlene Francis explored how biological, psychological and social processes interact over a lifetime to influence health and vulnerability to disease and Daniel V. Papero discussed emerging research on symptom development and what Bowen theory may have to add at this conference in Santa Rosa, CA in May, 2016. Streaming video from this meeting is now available on Vimeo.
What can research on rodents tell us about the way environmental and social conditions affect humans? Neuroscientist and UC Berkeley professor of Public Health Dr. Darlene Francis used rodent families to model the impacts of social experience and position on the development of stress reactivity in their offspring. Consistent with her own findings and those of her colleagues from the rodent models, Dr. Francis also presented research on variation in human health outcomes that reflect socio-economic inequality at the May 2016 Programs in Bowen Theory Conference: Systems Thinking, Symptom Development, and the Biological Embedding of Social Experience.
Trained as a neuroscientist, Dr. Francis is most interested in public health outcomes. She looks at physiological and psychological outcomes at multiple levels from genetics to behavior and social epidemiology. Rather than focusing on the individual, as neuroscientists ordinarily do, her research looks at individuals in the context of the groups to which they belong and her laboratory explores how these processes are causally related. Research demonstrates that genetically identical organisms can manifest dramatically different health outcomes in response to different environmental and social conditions. Dr. Francis’ research is focused on how social inequalities in health come to be.
Dr. Dan Papero from the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family puts research on disparities in health outcomes into a Bowen theory context. He discussed symptom development as reflecting disturbances of the relationship network in which the individual lives and functions. For more than a century, researchers have sought evidence for discrete categories of emotional or psychiatric symptoms that regularly present in the clinician’s office. The evidence has remained elusive. With increasing knowledge from the study of epigenetics, there is a new view of the interplay between environmental factors and the regulation of gene expression that can lead to the development of symptoms in an individual. The Research Domain Criteria Initiative (RDocs) at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reflects the growing awareness in psychiatric research that the categorization model contains many inaccuracies and does not adequately capture the dynamic gene-environment interaction that appears to underlie many kinds of psychiatric and physical illness. Bowen theorists continue to propose that symptoms of various kinds reflect disturbances of the relationship network in which the individual lives and functions. A review of the emerging research on symptom development leads to a discussion of what the Bowen theory may have to add to the new knowledge and thinking about symptom development.
In the discussion sessions with conference participants, the speakers discuss how Dr. Francis’ research and a Bowen theory approach might inform clinical practice.