Monthly Newsletter
Prevention Outcomes Using Brain Science
Upcoming PTTC Training
Webinar: Opioid Overdose Prevention and Infectious Disease Control: Opportunities for Collaboration  
Date: September 11, 2019
Time: 10:00 - 11:00 pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Launching a Social Marketing Campaign That Works
Date: September 16 - 17, 2019
Location: Austin, TX
South Southwest PTTC
The South Southwest PTTC provides high-impact training and technical assistance (T/TA) services, including in-person and virtual trainings; toolkits and guidance documents; networking and learning communities; coordination of regional advisory groups; and intensive coaching to build the professional and community capacities required to deliver effective and evidence-based prevention programs, practices and strategies.

To learn more about our services

Brain Science Techniques and Tobacco Control Measures:
A Merging of the Minds
Understanding brain science can be an important resource for developing effective substance use or misuse prevention strategies, particularly policy and environmental strategies. Researchers are beginning to use cognitive neuroscience techniques to study tobacco control measures. These methods can measure behavior to show how warning labels or cigarette packaging affect cognitive mechanisms in the brain involved in decision-making. Techniques commonly employed in the field of cognitive neuroscience (described here as neuroscience techniques) are increasingly being used to investigate the likely impact of tobacco control measures. [1]  
Traditionally, research examining the potential effectiveness of tobacco control measures has relied on surveys, focus groups, and questionnaires, which can be subjective measures of intention. Neuroscience techniques allow us to examine processes and behaviors that are outside of the awareness of individuals and therefore are not subject to criticisms of validity and subjectivity. Behavioral intervention data, while less subjective, can take a long time to compile and sometimes is not feasible in terms of time and ethical considerations. Neuroscience techniques can provide objective evidence of the likely effects of a tobacco control measure, but in a much shorter timeframe.
Neuroscience techniques have been important in informing our understanding of the cognitive mechanisms underlying tobacco smoking. These techniques are increasingly being used to examine the cognitive mechanisms underlying responses to tobacco control measures. In some cases, insights into cognitive mechanism may be obvious (eg, nicotine is the primary psychoactive component of tobacco smoke, and reducing it to negligible levels decreases smoking reinforcement) or unimportant. However, in other cases, a deeper understanding of how a policy manipulation exerts its influence can result in insights necessary for further refinement and even greater impact. For example, understanding why a particular health warning is effective at encouraging thoughts about quitting can inform development of future health warnings. Furthermore, while a group of participants in a study may all exhibit the same self-reported or behavioral response to one stimulus or manipulation, the underlying cognitive and neural processes by which they arrive at those outcomes may vary in meaningful ways.

Neuroscience Techniques for Prevention
By measuring processes and behaviors that are outside of the awareness of individuals, neuroscience techniques can overcome many of the limitations of methodologies relying on both subjective and behavioral responses. These techniques include eye tracking, EEG, and fMRI and are commonly used in market research to understand how neuroscience can inform consumer decision-making and increase purchasing behavior. In prevention, we can study the same techniques to find out what decreases purchasing behavior.

1.   Eye tracking
Eye trackers typically measure eye movements using noninvasive optical tracking with a video-based eye tracker. These measures provide an indication of visual attention toward a stimulus (ie, a tobacco health warning). Eye trackers are either “static” or “mobile.” When using a static eye tracker, the participant is static and views 2D stimuli on screen (either still or moving images). By contrast, using a mobile eye tracker allows for analysis of eye movements when individuals are mobile in naturalistic or real-world environments. Eye tracking can be used to answer questions such as “Which elements of pro/anti-tobacco messages capture attention?” “How is attention allocated in tobacco retail environments?” “How does attention to vaping cues influence later smoking behavior?”

2.  Electro-encephalography (EEG)
During Electro-encephalography (EEG), electrodes are placed over the skull to measure changes in the electric field being produced by the brain. EEG can be used to answer questions such as “Do anti-tobacco advertisements successfully elicit emotional responses?” “What are the neural indices underlying smokers’ reactance to health warnings?” “What is the minimum nicotine content needed to induce change in neural activity?”

3.   Functional magnetic resonance imaging
The basic principle behind functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is that when a region of the brain is more active, it uses more oxygen, resulting in an increased blood flow to this region. fMRI works by detecting these changes in blood oxygenation and flow and measures blood oxygenation–level dependent (BOLD) signal in the brain. fMRI can be used to answer questions such as “How do tobacco advertisements influence neural responses to reward?” “What effect does vaping during scanning have on neural responses related to reward and craving?” “How do neural responses to anti-tobacco messages predict later choice of tobacco products above and beyond self-report?”

Implications for Prevention and the Future
In the future, we may see some of these techniques combined with virtual reality (VR) environments that can mimic situations more effectively. A criticism of neuroscience techniques is that the lab environment is not generalizable to what people actually experience, and the virtual reality environment could provide a bridge between reality and the lab. Using VR headsets, participants can be immersed in life-like scenes in combination with neuroscience techniques. This does not mean preventionists abandon conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews with participants, but it can afford us an opportunity to look more comprehensively at behavior and the brain mechanisms at play with marketing around substances, and inform local, state, and national policy around substance use and misuse prevention.

[1] Olivia M Maynard, F Joseph McClernon, Jason A Oliver, Marcus R Munafò, Using Neuroscience to Inform Tobacco Control Policy, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Volume 21, Issue 6, June 2019, Pages 739–746,
Additional Resources - Prevention Outcomes Using Brain Science
Translating Developmental Neuroscience to Substance Use...

This article outlines how the application of recent advances in developmental neuroscience can inform the design, implementation, and evaluation of substance use prevention programs.

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Brain Rules: Brain development for parents, teachers and ...

Why is it so easy to forget—and so important to repeat new knowledge? In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. .

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Neurocognitive Precursors of Substance Misuse...

Studies of substance misuse prevention generally focus on characteristics that typify risk, with the assumption that the prevalence of the problem will be optimally reduced by identifying, targeting, and reducing or eliminating risk factors.

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Guest Interviews - Brain Science Podcast

Frank Amthor, MD: Author of Neurobiology for Dummies; and Neuroscience for Dummies; Episode 110. Dan Ariely, Phd: Author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, was a guest on Books and Ideas #19 . Fabrizio...

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More Helpful Links

Prevention Neuroscience: A new frontier for preventive medicine
Suggests a new definition-- prevention neuroscience: an interdisciplinary field concerned with the neurobiological factors that influence susceptibility to preventable disease, disability or mortality. It includes, but is not limited to: examination of brain health as an outcome, brain activity as a predictor of health outcomes, brain structures/systems as causal determinants of health outcomes (e.g., health behaviors), and the brain as a mediator of other causal influences (e.g., social conditions) on health outcomes
Training Highlight

Introduction to Substance Abuse Prevention: Understanding the Basics

Training is Now Available Until September 30!

The free online Pre-Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Training (SAPST), sponsored by the Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) Network is now available! If you are planning to take the face to face SAPST within the next six months or if you are a new preventionist, we recommend that you take this course within the next few months.

This foundational course offers practitioners new to the field of prevention, or working in related fields, an introduction to the history of prevention, key concepts and definitions, specific drug effects, and an exciting glimpse into the effects of substance use and addiction on the brain. Participants will learn about:
  • Basic terminology and facts
  • History of substance use and prevention in the U.S.
  • Addiction and the brain
  • Effects and health risks of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs

Accessing the course:
  1. Register for a HealthEKnowledge account (it’s free) if you don’t already have an account, go to 
  2. Access the course directly here: 
  3. Click on the “Register Now and Begin Course” button. When prompted, enter the following course key for the SSW PTTC Region: pttc-6

Participants completing the online component of the SAPST will receive a certificate for five hours of training pending receipt of a “pass” score on the final assessment (80% correct is a passing grade).
Other Highlights

Integrating Primary and Behavioral Health Care through the Lens of Prevention (IPBHC)

November 13-15, 2019
New Orleans, Louisiana
This conference is attended by professionals involved in prevention, behavioral healthcare, and physical health care. The conference differs from similar ones because it explores prevention’s role in health integration. Also, its emphasis is on presenting information demonstrating the benefits and necessity of placing the field of professional prevention on par with behavioral health and primary healthcare into the practice of integrated health care. Additionally, IPBHC has a reputation for attracting diverse professionals who are committed to breaking down silos and serving as a vehicle addressing the need for interdisciplinary cooperation and respect involving prevention experts, substance use disorder professionals, primary care practitioners, and behavioral healthcare specialists. Sponsored by the University of Oklahoma’s Southwest Prevention Center.

The National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse ( NAADAC) 2019 Annual Conference Features Sessions in Spanish!

September 28 – October 3
Orlando, Florida
For the first time  NAADAC , along with the  National Hispanic and Latino Addiction Technology Transfer Center , is offering a full-day pre-conference session and three individual workshops in Spanish at the  NAADAC 2019 Annual Conference . Earn up to 43 CEs, including up to 11.5 CEs from Spanish sessions! 
If you have counselors, clinicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, peers, prevention specialists or any others who are providing ,or want to provide, services in Spanish, please have them attend this conference. It is imperative that individuals who provide services in a language other than English also receive trai ning and supervision in that other language.   
Question to the Field
Each month a question to the field will be posted to generate feedback to be shared in the following month's newsletter. The purpose of this section is to exchange ideas and share examples of prevention work in your tribe, state, or community. Please send responses to the question to . These responses will be shared in next month's newsletter.

July Monthly Question Follow up
How does your community, tribe, or state support service members, veterans, and military families?

A big thank you goes out to The University of Oklahoma, Southwest Prevention Center, Region 8 Regional Prevention Coordinator in Oklahoma for responding to the July regional highlight question. Take a look at the great work they’re doing!

  1. Coordinate training and provide opioid related resources, medication disposal kits, and lock boxes to veterans through the Cleveland County Veteran Services Center.
  2. Work to install permanent drug disposal drop boxes accessible to veterans at the Cleveland County Health Department and other locations across the county.
  3. Partner with Oklahoma Army National Guard Counterdrug Task Force on community coalitions and Regional Epidemiology Outcomes Workgroup to plan and implement opioid related strategies that support veterans and their families. .
Epi Corner

Beverly Triana-Tremain, PhD
South Southwest Prevention Technology Transfer Center
Five Fascinating Brain Science Resources

This month I’ve chosen to share five resources on the topic of brain science that I’ve found to be fascinating. It’s my hope that you’ll be able to take advantage of these useful tools and find them to be interesting as well.

Podcast: The Hidden Brain
Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves.   Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, and the biases that shape our choices. How do children come to love spicy foods? Why do religions exist? What's the best way to get people to be honest on their taxes? Hidden Brain explores questions like these that lie at the very heart of a complex and changing society.

Book: The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science,
An astonishing new science called "neuroplasticity" is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. In this revolutionary look at the brain, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., provides an introduction to both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed. From stroke patients learning to speak again to the remarkable case of a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, The Brain That Changes Itself will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.
Book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities
Website: Childhood Trauma: Changing Minds
New research provides evidence that witnessing violence can harm a child’s brain. This website shows 5 everyday gestures that can alter a child’s brain for life. They are; celebrate, comfort, collaborate, listen, and inspire .
Video: The Science of Trauma

How exactly do traumatic experiences affect children’s brains? Can everyday gestures really help them heal? Here’s what the latest scientific studies have to say. Watch a video on how witnessing violence can change a child’s brain and what to do to counteract these experiences.