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Keywords:

  • resilience;
  • PTSD;
  • trauma;
  • translational research;
  • brain;
  • neuroendocrine markers

Abstract: Here we outline a translational research agenda for studies of resilience, defined as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or trauma. We argue that an individual differences approach to the study of resilience, in which the full range of behavioral and biological responses to stress exposure is examined can be applied across human samples (e.g., people who have developed psychopathology versus those who have not; people who have been exposed to trauma versus those who have not) and even, in some cases, across species. We delineate important psychological resilience-related factors including positive affectivity and optimism, cognitive flexibility, coping, social support, emotion regulation, and mastery. Key brain regions associated with stress-related psychopathology have been identified with animal models of fear (e.g., extinction and fear conditioning; memory reconsolidation) and we describe how these regions can be studied in humans using neuroimaging technology. Finally, we cite recent research identifying neuroendocrine markers of resilience and recovery in humans (e.g., neuropeptide Y [NPY], dehydroepiandrosterone [DHEA]) that can also be measured, in some cases, in other species. That exposure to adversity or trauma does not necessarily lead to impairment and the development of psychopathology in all people is an important observation. Understanding why this is so will provide clues for the development of therapeutic interventions for those people who do develop stress-related psychopathology, or even for the prevention of adverse outcomes.