More About the Laboratory of Stress and Resilience
“Stress” is a biologic fact of life. In the short-term the physiological response to a stressor is adaptive, but in the long-term, these physiologic responses may become harmful to the organism. In human populations, the issue of what constitutes “stress” also differs between individuals. For some, a problem or a threat is a positive challenge, while the identical situation may precipitate psychiatric symptoms in less resilient populations. Research in our combined laboratories seeks to understand responses to stress and effective coping mechanisms across species, and to define the neural circuitry and neurotransmitter systems applicable to specific responses.
Historically, understanding the neurobiology of the stress response has mainly been conducted in rodents, and has been extremely fruitful for understanding human disease. At the same time, understanding the links between chronic stress, brain regions affected, and the link to psychiatric illness has been limited. To address this, we propose several directions for new research. First, we seek to expand our repertoire of stress paradigms to include the use of “naturalistic” stressors in addition to classic stress paradigms. In this way, we hope to more closely mimic environmental events encountered by a specific species. We also intend to study responses to various stressors across species (mouse, rat, primate) since it is not clear if the stress response—or even the same stress stimulus—is similar across species. Incorporated in these studies are examinations of how animals actively cope with ongoing stress, and whether these strategies are successful. Finally, we are examining differences in brain anatomy and chemistry—particularly those regions implicated in the stress response—across several species. We hypothesize there will be similarities as well as differences across species in terms of brain correlates of stress and coping behaviors.
Ultimately, our goal is to better understand how stressors may differentially affect vulnerable human populations, and the brain regions mediating the aberrant responses in this population. By better understanding the circuitry and the transmitter systems modulating important ‘stress’ circuits we can approach development of behavioral and medication paradigms that specifically target them.
As part of our mission, we are committed to providing training experiences for young investigators who want to study interactions between stress/coping and brain responses across species. Please contact David Parfitt, Ph.D. to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org.