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College of Education

Educational Neuroscience Symposium Archive

Archive for past Educational Neuroscience Symposiums at Butler University.

2019 Educational Neuroscience Symposium | The Polyvagal Theory

How our biological need to connect influences our ability to learn, to trust, and to socialize: Implications of Polyvagal Theory in the classroom.

Dr. Porges Presentation

September 21, 2019  |  9:00 AM–3:30 PM  |  Shelton Auditorium, South Campus, Butler University

Objectives of the conference:

  • Attendees will leave symposium with a greater understanding of how attachment and regulation with students carrying in pain-based behaviors inform our practices as educators and parents.
  • Attendees will come away with specific brain-aligned strategies to regulate the nervous system of students while strengthening connections with students.
  • Attendees will leave with a deeper exploration of our physiology and how the Polyvagal Theory affects attachment and connections through nonverbal communication and our prosody.

Stephen W. Porges, PhD is a 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).


A Pediatrician View  |  Dr. Jim Bien  Presentation

In this session, Dr. Jim Bien will share the medical perspective with regard to how Adverse Childhood Study has directly impacted the practices of physicians and what we can expect now and in the future. 

Somatasensory Regulation Through Yoga Practices  |  Ryan Tolhurst

Mr. Ryan Tolhurst, former wide-receiver for the North Carolina Panthers will share mindfulness and yoga practices for students  and ourselves to combat anxiety and depression. Ryan will share his personal story and how this contemplative practice began to heal him from the inside out. 

Adversity and Trauma through an Educator's and Father's Lens  |  Chad Tuley  Presentation

Mr. Chad Tuley will share as a father and teacher how regulation and relationship with so many of our students and children are a prerequisite for learning, behaviors, and well-being.

Drumming, Rhythm and Trauma  |  Lisa Colleen

Lisa Colleen from Bongo Boys Music School will share in a session how drumming and rhythm can become a part of the school day in a variety of ways and how drumming can be gin to lessen the anxiety and depression our students carry into our schools and classrooms.

2018 Fall Educational Neuroscience Symposium

Educators, parents and the community at large want nothing more than for our students to feel successful and excited to learn, and to understand the importance of their education. Our students want to feel a sense of purpose and connection as they walk into our classrooms each day. Underneath all behaviors, words and experiences there sometimes lies a six letter word that literally can change us for a lifetime. What is trauma? When we hear this word, we tend to think of severe neglect or abusive experiences and relationships. This is not necessarily true. A traumatized brain can also be a tired, hungry, worried, rejected, or detached brain expressing feelings of isolation, worry, angst, and fear. In youth, anger is often the bodyguard for deep feelings of fear. Trauma-filled experiences can be sudden or subtle, but the neurobiological changes from negative experiences cause our emotional brain to create a sensitized fear response. 

  • Educators will come away with a deepened understanding of how brain development is affected by adversity and how we can use brain aligned strategies to prime the brain for regulation and cognition.
  • Educators will come away with a plethora of brain aligned strategies that address brain stem, limbic system and cortical functioning addressing regulation and attachment.
  • Educators will come away with an understanding of how the framework of applied educational neuroscience looks in districts, schools and classrooms.


Workshop Descriptions

Dr. David Hoffert – Superintendent of Warsaw Community Schools  |  SEL Presentation

Dr. Hoffert will explore how SEL is positively addressed through applied educational neuroscience into a large public school district. Dr. Hoffert will share the plans this district is embracing with regard to how this framework will support teachers, bus drivers, administrators and especially students and their families. 


Dr. Tom Oestreich – Assistant Superintendent, MSD of Washington Township  |  District-wide Applied Educational Neuroscience Implementation

Dr. Oestreich will share how applied educational neuroscience has been implemented throughout the Washington Township district into every school and beyond addressing the mental health of educators, parents and students.


Mr. Walt Nordstrom – Diagnostic Program Lead Teacher - MSD Washington Township  |  Middle School Intervention Ideas

Mr. Nordstrom will share what the discipline of applied educational neuroscience looks like in our secondary classrooms and how he has built this framework into routines, procedures and everyday instructional practices.


Ms. Karianne Polk-Meek – Principal, Starr Elementary School, Richmond Community Schools  |  Implementation of Neuroscience in High Trauma School

Mrs. Polk -Meek will share how classrooms and schools in the Richmond schools have implemented applied educational neuroscience in their buildings and districts through brain aligned instruction building regulation and relationships.


Ms. Sarah Desautels Dorsey – Mississippi Schools  |  Applied Neuroscience in the Classroom: Through the Eyes of a First-Year

Mrs. Desautels Dorsey will share how as a first year educator she implemented the framework of applied educational neuroscience into a self-contained classroom of emotionally disturbed students within a school district that was 100% free and reduced lunch in south Mississippi. Sarah will share how regulation and relationship drove up her test scores with significant  improvement in behaviors and emotional well-being.


Mr. Michael Cox – Principal and Mr. Jonathan Guthrie – Assistant Principal, North Montgomery High  School  |  Becoming Brain-Aligned

Mr. Cox and Mr. Guthrie will share how North Montgomery high school is rolling out a school wide plan to implement the strategies of applied educational neuroscience building connection and regulation addressing the needs of both educators and students.


Dr. Lori Desautels – Butler University  |  Application of Educational Neuroscience

Dr. Desautels will share her work in applied education as it relates to restorative practices and the adolescent brain. Dr. Desautels will share how this work has mediated the dysregulation and the building of relationships within the districts she has intimately worked beside.  


Mr. Chris Leusner, President, New Jersey Chief of Police Association  |  Trauma-Informed and Responsive Policing

2018 Educational Neuroscience Symposium | Trauma and Adversity

Educators, parents and the community at large want nothing more than for our students to feel successful and excited to learn, and to understand the importance of their education. Our students want to feel a sense of purpose and connection as they walk into our classrooms each day. Underneath all behaviors, words and experiences there sometimes lies a six letter word that literally can change us for a lifetime. What is trauma? When we hear this word, we tend to think of severe neglect or abusive experiences and relationships. This is not necessarily true. A traumatized brain can also be a tired, hungry, worried, rejected, or detached brain expressing feelings of isolation, worry, angst, and fear. In youth, anger is often the bodyguard for deep feelings of fear. Trauma-filled experiences can be sudden or subtle, but the neurobiological changes from negative experiences cause our emotional brain to create a sensitized fear response. 

Speaker:  Bruce Perry, M.D., PhD | Keynote Presentation (PDF)

Dr. Perry is the Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, a not-for-profit organization based in Houston, TX and adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.  Dr. Perry is the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. His most recent multimedia book, BRIEF: Reflections on Childhood, Trauma and Society was released in 2013. Over the last thirty years, Dr. Perry has been an active teacher, clinician and researcher in children’s mental health and the neurosciences holding a variety of academic positions.

Dr. Perry was on the faculty of the Departments of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago School Of Medicine from 1988 to 1991. From 1992 to 2001, Dr. Perry served as the Trammell Research Professor of Child Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. During this time, Dr. Perry also was Chief of Psychiatry for Texas Children's Hospital and Vice-Chairman for Research within the Department of Psychiatry. From 2001 to 2003, Dr. Perry served as the Medical Director for Provincial Programs in Children's Mental Health for the Alberta Mental Health Board. He continues to consult with the government of Alberta on children’s issues and serves as a founding member of the Premier’s Council of Alberta’s Promise.  

Dr. Perry has conducted both basic neuroscience and clinical research. His neuroscience research has examined the effects of prenatal drug exposure on brain development, the neurobiology of human neuropsychiatric disorders, the neurophysiology of traumatic life events and basic mechanisms related to the development of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. His clinical research and practice has focused on high-risk children. This work has examined the cognitive, behavioral, emotional, social, and physiological effects of neglect and trauma in children, adolescents and adults. This work has been instrumental in describing how childhood experiences, including neglect and traumatic stress, change the biology of the brain – and, thereby, the health of the child.  

His clinical research over the last ten years has been focused on integrating emerging principles of developmental neuroscience into clinical practice. This work has resulted in the development of innovative clinical practices and programs working with maltreated and traumatized children, most prominently the Neurosequential Model©, a developmentally sensitive, neurobiology-informed approach to clinical work (NMT), education (NME) and caregiving (NMC).  This approach to clinical problem solving has been integrated into the programs at dozens of large public and non-profit organizations serving at-risk children and their families.

His experience as a clinician and a researcher with traumatized children has led many community and governmental agencies to consult Dr. Perry following high-profile incidents involving traumatized children such as the Branch Davidian siege in Waco (1993), the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), the Columbine school shootings (1999), the September 11th terrorist attacks (2001), Hurricane Katrina (2005), the FLDS polygamist sect (2008), the earthquake in Haiti (2010), the tsunami in Tohoku Japan (2011) and the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings (2012).  

Dr. Perry is the author of over 500 journal articles, book chapters and scientific proceedings and is the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors, including the T. Berry Brazelton Infant Mental Health Advocacy Award, the Award for Leadership in Public Child Welfare, the Alberta Centennial Medal and the 2014 Kohl Education Prize. He serves on the Board of Directors of multiple organizations including Prevent Child Abuse America ( and the Ana Grace Project ( 

He has presented about child maltreatment, children's mental health, neurodevelopment and youth violence in a variety of venues including policy-making bodies such as the White House Summit on Violence, the California Assembly and U.S. House Committee on Education. Dr. Perry has been featured in a wide range of media including National Public Radio, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC and CBS News and the Oprah Winfrey Show. His work has been featured in documentaries produced by Dateline NBC, 20/20, the BBC, Nightline, CBC, PBS, as well as dozen international documentaries. Many print media have highlighted the clinical and research activities of Dr. Perry including a Pulitzer-prize winning series in the Chicago Tribune, US News and World Report, Time, Newsweek, Forbes ASAP, Washington Post, the New York Times and Rolling Stone.  

Dr. Perry, a native of Bismarck, North Dakota, was an undergraduate at Stanford University and Amherst College. He attended medical and graduate school at Northwestern University, receiving both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Perry completed a residency in general psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine and a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The University of Chicago.  

Hear Dr. Perry's recent interview with Oprah Winfrey for 60 Minutes:

Workshop Powerpoint Presentations

Educational Neuroscience Lives in the Classroom-Practices and Teacher Strategies (PDF) | Presenter: Deanna Nibarger 
The foundation to all learning is an awareness of our brain state and the ability we possess to build positive relationships and self-regulate. When we are able to do those two things, we can then begin the great journey of learning. In this session, participants will discover where educational neuroscience lives in the classroom and how to incorporate these practices and strategies in consistent, natural, and purposeful ways. Educators will leave with resources, research, and strategies to implement in classrooms the next day.

Classroom Systems of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Trauma Informed Classrooms: Creating the Paradigm Shift (PDF) | Presenter: Sandy Washburn 
At its core, PBIS relies on creating predictable and safe classroom environments and teaching learners about expected behaviors.  Additionally, responses to problem behavior Include creating contextual changes that prevent reoccurrence of problem behavior and instructional responses that involve identifying requisite skills and providing opportunities to learn and practice those skills. In this session, we will explore and practice classroom management strategies that enhance the teacher-to student relationship, improve students’ emotional and behavioral regulation skills and foster increased school connectedness.

Validating and Diffusing Statements Exercise (PDF)
Creating Trauma Informed Schools (PDF) | Presenter: Michael McKnight 
Do you have students in your schools that live in environments with "toxic levels of STRESS"?  Do some of your students carry in many adverse childhood experiences that get in the way of their ability to learn? This session will focus on how schools and teachers can to begin to address trauma within our school communities and will explore the following topics:
  1.  Toxic Stress and the Brain
  2.  Developmental Trauma and its effect on student behaviors
  3.  The 3 Pillars of Trauma Informed Care in Schools- First Steps
         >Emotional Regulation
Creating Trauma-sensitive Schools and Communities: The Role of Community Partnerships and One School’s Story on Making the Paradigm Shift (PDF) | Presenters: Terri Miller, Elizabeth Avery, Julie Smart, and Christy Gauss 
To help students overcome trauma, demonstrate resilience, and succeed physically, emotionally, socially, and academically it will take a collective effort.  This session will focus on developing meaningful school-community partnership in order to create both trauma sensitive schools and communities.  The second half of this session will look at the journey of one particular alternative school as it began to make the paradigm shift of becoming trauma-informed. This will be a case study on lessons learned and next steps to be-taken.
Applied Educational Neuroscience Research and Implications for the Future; Building a Bridge of Evidence for Applied Educational Neuroscience: Pathways for Possibility (PDF) | Presenters: Sheila Dennis and Juliet King 
This session will introduce attendees to a qualitative case study that seeks to examine educational neuroscience application in classroom settings.  The presenters will outline findings from the exploratory study and implications for developing theoretical constructs for applied educational neuroscience.  From the limitations of this current research, the discussion will include considerations for pioneering a transdisciplinary research infrastructure that explores a mixed-methods approach. This session will discuss the use of contemporary neuroimaging technology that may help to elucidate and expand the potentials of the educational neurosciences.  The attendees will leave with insight into future possibilities for balancing the evolving educational neuroscience practices with research, building the bridge to consequential and responsible practice pathways.   
How Adversity Affects Emotional Social and Academic Well-being Through Brain Development, Restorative Practices/Strategies (Oliver PDF) (Desautels PDF) | Presenters: Brandi Oliver and Lori Desautels
In this break out session, Dr. Oliver and Dr. Desautels will share the research of how adversity affects emotional social and academic well-being through brain development and the restorative practices and  strategies that can dampen the stress response system opening cortical areas for learning and well-being.
Can Neuroscience and A Behavioral Approach Peacefully Co-Exist? (PDF) | Presenters: Theresa Knipstein Meyer and Cathy Pratt
Individuals who engage in problematic behaviors present a tremendous challenge to those who live and work with them.  As practitioners learn more about the role of neurology in behavior, there may be an inclination to shift away from a behavioral based approach.  However, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Conducting a functional behavior assessment thru the lens of neuroscience requires us to take a deeper look into what is driving behavior.   Moreover, many of the strategies used in a neuroscience approach are consistent with those used in both ABA and positive behavior supports.  Examples will be presented and a case study used to illustrate.  

2017 Educational Neuroscience Symposium | Attention Deficit Disorder

2017 Educational Neuroscience Symposium | Attention Deficit Disorder

There has never been a more significant time in the history of education to begin applying the research of neuroscience into our educational practices, assessments and relationships. We are feeling creatures who think and emotional connection drives all that we employ within our schools, classrooms and communities. In this Butler University Educational Neuroscience Symposium, we will explore the brain research beneath emotional regulation, the critical executive function skills of attention and engagement and relationships. Educators, mental health professionals, parents and students will leave this symposium with:

1.  Evidence-based tangible strategies for strengthening self-regulatory capacity essential for building self-reliance and adaptive functioning.  

2. A deeper understanding and framework of Attention Deficit Disorder and its implications in our schools.

3. Resources, research, and an understanding that support all educational practices, K-12 that teach and enhance frontal lobe executive functioning of the brain supporting teaching practices, leadership and community engagement delving beneath student behaviors and words.   

Download the Educational Neuroscience Symposium flyer PDF.

2017 Speakers:

Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D., is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina.  He is a Diplomate (board certified) in three specialties, Clinical Psychology (ABPP), Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, and Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN, ABPP).  Dr. Barkley is a clinical scientist, educator, and practitioner who has published 23 books, rating scales, and clinical manuals numbering 41 editions.  He has also published more than 270 scientific articles and book chapters related to the nature, assessment, and treatment of ADHD and related disorders.  He is the founder and Editor of the bimonthly clinical newsletter, The ADHD Report, now in its 20th year of publication.  Dr. Barkley has presented more than 800 invited addresses internationally and appeared on nationally televised programs such as 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, and many other programs on behalf of those with ADHD.  He has received awards from the American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Board of Professional Psychology, Association for the Advancement of Applied and Preventive Psychology, New England Educational Institute, the Wisconsin Psychological Association, and Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD) for his career accomplishments, contributions to research in ADHD, to clinical practice, and for the dissemination of science.  His websites are and

Dr. Judy Willis combined her 15 years as a board-certified practicing neurologist with ten subsequent years as a classroom teacher to become a leading authority in the neuroscience of learning. Dr. Willis has written seven books and more than 100 articles for professional journals applying neuroscience research to successful teaching strategies. She is on the adjunct faculty of the University of California Graduate School of Education, Santa Barbara. Dr. Willis travels nationally and internationally giving presentations, workshops, and consulting while continuing to write books and staff expert blogs for Edutopia, Psychology Today, NBC Education Nation ParentToolkit, and The Guardian. She is one of Edutopia’s “Big Thinkers on Education.”


YouTube video presentation playlist

Dr. Barkley:  ADHD - Theory of EF and SR PDF

Dr. Willis:   How Emotion Impacts the Brain's Successful Learning Handout PDF

Brain Stations PDF

Jello Brain Recipe PDF