Understanding resilience: New approaches for preventing and treating PTSD

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All individuals experience stressful life events, and up to 84% of the general population will experience at least one potentially traumatic event. In some cases, acute or chronic stressors lead to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other psychopathology; however, the majority of people are resilient to such effects. Resilience is the ability to adapt successfully in the face of stress and adversity. A wealth of research has begun to identify the genetic, epigenetic, neural, and environmental underpinnings of resilience, and has indicated that resilience is mediated by adaptive changes encompassing several environmental factors, neural circuits, numerous neurotransmitters, and molecular pathways. The first part of this review focuses on recent findings regarding the genetic, epigenetic, developmental, psychosocial, and neurochemical factors as well as neural circuits and molecular pathways that underlie the development of resilience. Emerging and exciting areas of research and novel methodological approaches, including genome-wide gene expression studies, immune, endocannabinoid, oxytocin, and glutamatergic systems, are explored to help delineate innovative mechanisms that may contribute to resilience. The second part reviews several interventions and preventative approaches designed to enhance resilience in both developmental and adult populations. Specifically, the review will delineate approaches aimed to bolster resilience in individuals with PTSD. Furthermore, we discuss novel pharmacologic approaches, including the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor ketamine and neuropeptide Y (NPY), as exciting new prospects for not only the treatment of PTSD but as new targets to enhance resilience. Our growing understanding of resilience and interventions will hopefully lead to the development of new strategies for not just treating PTSD but also screening and early identification of at-risk youth and adults. Taken together, efforts aimed at dissemination and implementation of novel interventions to enhance resilience will have to keep pace with the growth of new preventive and treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-132
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Intervention
  • Neurobiology
  • PTSD
  • Prevention
  • Resilience
  • Stress


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