Resilience to stress can be measured and controlled in the brain and body

Recent research has begun to identify the neural mechanisms in stress responses that may lead to the development of resilience. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2021, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Resilience to stress is the ability of an individual to cope with hardship; this ability comes easier to some individuals than others.  A person’s level of resilience can be a determining factor for successfully coping with stressful events. Individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other disorders may one day benefit from treatments targeting specific circuits and regions of the brain. However, the exact mechanisms of resilience, such as how it mediates the relationship between the brain and the rest of the body, are not yet known. 

New findings show:

  • Activation of a subset of touch neurons in the skin can reduce stress hormones after minor stress; the elimination of these neurons leads to depression-like behavior (Melanie Schaffler, University of Pennsylvania).
  • In rats who exhibit high anxiety and passive coping behavior, biological sex moderates the presence of resilience and active coping styles in adulthood after adolescent stress (Eva E. Redei, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University).
  • PTSD-prone rats have higher levels of urinary adrenaline and more inflammation-associated bacteria in their gut; exposure to stress significantly alters their gut microbiota (Esther Sabban, New York Medical College).

“Stress affects us in many ways, and these studies show us that resilience is also multi-faceted,” said press conference moderator Martha Farah, Walter H. Annenberg Professor in Natural Sciences and director of the Center for Neuroscience & Society at the University of Pennsylvania. “Discovering the brain mechanisms of resilience is arguably the holy grail of psychiatry. These findings will contribute to new treatments for PTSD and other anxiety and mood disorders.”

Everyone experiences stress in their lives. To read further on it in this blog, type STRESS into the Search Box on the right.

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