What makes one person more resilient to stress than another? How do some people seemingly take even extreme stress in stride while others succumb to depression or anxiety disorders when faced with trauma or tragedy? Might differences in brain structure or function explain it?
These are questions that have been tackled by social scientists for decades, resulting in a fairly comprehensive description of the kinds of emotional and behavioral characteristics that tend to describe a “stress-resilient” person–things like optimism, a strong social support system, an ability to find purpose in life, or a grounding in faith or spirituality. A “glass-half-full” kind of person.
More recently, neuroscience has tackled the question of resilience, with the goal of understanding what underlying neurobiological mechanisms might contribute to resilience in humans so that more targeted, more potent interventions can be developed. While treatment breakthroughs have been elusive, recent work has begun to shed new light on the resilient brain.