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Approved research

Neural characteristics of resilience to traumatic stress.

Principal Investigator: Dr Steven van der Werff
Approved Research ID: 31102
Approval date: June 6th 2018

Lay summary

Traumatic events are major predictors of stress-related psychopathologies like PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse, and are quite common with lifetime prevalence estimations of up to 80%. However, there appears to be a high degree of inter-individual variation in the way individuals respond and adapt to trauma exposure, with a spectrum ranging from vulnerable individuals on the one side to resilient individuals on the other. Our aims are to: 1. Identify and describe resilient vs vulnerable individuals in terms of demographical and behavioural data. 2. Identify the neural characteristics of resilience to trauma using MRI data. Investigating neural characteristics of resilience to trauma will provide us with information that can be used both for prevention and treatment of trauma-related psychopathologies. Discovering biological substrates of resilience could lead to development of novel drug targets that can assist in treatment (i.e., cognitive enhancers) and specific psychotherapies. In addition, it will provide us with a biological background that could help us in the development of novel training and/or selection methods for high risk professions (i.e., military, police). Using the data provided by the UK biobank we will identify resilient individuals (trauma-exposure but no subsequent psychopathology), vulnerable individuals (trauma-exposure and subsequent trauma-related psychopathology), and control subjects (no trauma-exposure and no psychopathology). Using these three groups we will examine associations of gray matter structure, white matter integrity and brain function (resting-state functional connectivity) that are specific to the resilient group. We will include all individuals included in the MRI study.