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Approved Research

Leveraging a Large-Scale GWAS to Identify Genetic Variants Associated With Psychological Resilience

Principal Investigator: Ms Brianna Bucknor
Approved Research ID: 67552
Approval date: May 17th 2021

Lay summary

Stress is one of the strongest and most consistently identified risk factors for the development of psychopathology, making it a detriment to public health and wellbeing. Understanding differences in stress reactivity could allow for the reduction of these negative health consequences; one way to accomplish this is through the study of resilience and the factors (e.g., genetic) that strengthen it. Importantly, resilience research uses a health-based rather than a disease-based approach in order to identify mechanisms that can help individuals better adapt when faced with stress.

Studies of resilience have identified it to be a complex trait influenced by factors such as social support, socioeconomic status, successful termination of stress responses, and developmental timing of stress. Resilience has also been identified to be moderately heritable, such that people who are more closely biologically related are more similar in their resilience, even after accounting for shared environmental influences. Although it is well established that there are individual differences in reactivity to stress and trauma and that those differences are partly heritable, the specific genetic mechanisms that contribute to this observed heritability have yet to be identified. One path to addressing this gap in knowledge is through a large-scale genome-wide association study (GWAS) of resilience.

Utilizing secondary data obtained from the UK Biobank, this project seeks to perform a robust genome-wide association study (GWAS) of resilience in order to identify genetic markers associated with resilience. The expected project duration will be between 1-2 years. Identification of genetic markers associated with resilience will allow for further investigation of the extent to which these associated genes overlap with other correlated traits, such as neuroticism and depression. Moreover, the identification of these genetic markers could also contribute to the development of mechanism-focused interventions for those who are at increased risk for the development of psychopathology.