NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Researchers Identify Brain Circuits that Help People Cope with Stress

Man and woman in discussion
Research has identified brain patterns in humans that appear to underlie “resilient coping.”

NIH-supported research has identified brain patterns in humans that appear to underlie “resilient coping,” the healthy emotional and behavioral responses to stress that help some people handle stressful situations better than others.

People encounter stressful situations and stimuli everywhere, every day, and studies have shown that long-term stress can contribute to a broad array of health problems. However, some people cope with stress better than others and scientists have long wondered why. The new study, by a team of researchers at Yale University, is now online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This important finding points to specific brain adaptations that predict resilient responses to stress,” said Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a supporter of the study. “The findings also indicate that we might be able to predict maladaptive stress responses that contribute to excessive drinking, anger and other unhealthy reactions to stress.”

In a study of human volunteers, scientists led by Dr. Rajita Sinha and Dr. Dongju Seo used a brain scanning technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure localized changes in brain activation during stress.

In addition to NIAAA, the study was supported by the NIH Common Fund, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)