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Research Library

Experimental Evaluation of a Neurophysiological Intervention Designed to Increase Student Resilience: A Pilot Study

    • Published: 2024
    • Alex Kresovich1, Kai MacLean1, Caroline M. Lancaster1, Elizabeth D. Torres2, Jeff R. Temple2, and Elizabeth A. Mumford1
    • Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 2024: 1-18. DOI: Public Health Department, NORC at the University of Chicago, Chicago, USA.2. Center for Violence Prevention, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, USA.
    • Download the complete paper, click here.


Social and emotional learning (SEL) interventions have shown promise for building resilience and protecting youth from adverse outcomes. This study reports on an experimental pilot evaluation of the Smart Brain Wise Heart SEL intervention during the 2021-2022 school year. Smart Brain Wise Heart (SBWH) uses a neurophysiological approach among ninth-grade students to evaluate the intervention’s impact on youth resiliency, self-compassion, peer violence exposure, internalising disorders, and hyperactivity. Results did not indicate any significant universal changes in target outcomes. These null findings regarding universal impact may be explained by the unprecedented difficulty of implementing a school-based intervention amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and administrative issues. Despite these obstacles, students with lower academic achievement in the intervention condition scored significantly higher for resilience and self-compassion and lower on depressive symptoms than their peers in the comparison condition, even when controlling for baseline scores, sex, attachment (father, mother, peer), and exposure to adverse childhood experiences. Our findings suggest SBWH programming may have important implications for the trajectories of students exhibiting lower academic achievement, at a minimum, by significantly improving their emotional resilience, self-compassion, and depressive symptoms during a vital developmental stage. More research is urgently needed under optimal conditions to assess the universal implementation of the program.