The Brain and Resilience

Posted on September 3, 2018

Starting from childhood, and maybe even lasting till adulthood, anxiety is a common foe. When it becomes severe enough to develop into a disorder, it can also become comorbid with other disorders, such as depression, ADHD and eating disorders to name a few. An estimate suggests that 1 in 8 children suffer from anxiety and this is disheartening considering how anxiety when left untreated, could lead to academic and social difficulties.

The prefrontal cortex regulates an individual’s ability to cope with emotional challenges. Cognitive appraisal refers to how the brain assesses the situation and come up with the appropriate responses required. It is also the area of the brain that feels pleasure and positive emotions, termed as positive affect. When the prefrontal cortex is constantly stimulated, it protects the individual from emotional difficulties.

A study done at the University of Illinois found a significant correlation between higher prefrontal cortex and lower anxiety. This result is supported by other studies that have found a positive correlation between brain volume and resiliency, which is crucial in the processes of cognitive reappraisal and positive affect that the prefrontal cortex undertakes.

The present study broaches new ground by being the first to find a link between the prefrontal cortex, resilience and lower anxiety levels. This is important when you consider the following: the structure and volume of the brain is amenable to change via a process known as neuroplasticity, as an individual goes through certain life experiences. This means that if the structure of the brain can be tweaked accordingly, it could help in the treatment and recovery of individuals affected by anxiety disorders. Additionally, since resilience and well-being are often strengthened through engaging in social bonds and relationships as well as certain social skills training, this could be really helpful for those more susceptible to anxiety.

Hence, identifying key traits and brain regions that protect against emotional distress could really go a long way in promoting resilience and adaptiveness in individuals.

Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Adult psychological development, Anxiety, Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Other, Self-Confidence

Source material from Psychology Today

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