Learning to cope with stress: psychobiological mechanisms of stress resilience

Simona Cabib, Paolo Campus 1  and Valentina Colelli 1
  • 1 Department of Psychology and CRIN, Sapienza University of Rome, via dei Marsi 78, I-00185 Rome, Italy
  • 2 Centro Europeo di Ricerca sul Cervello (CERC), Fondazione Santa Lucia IRCCS, Via del Fosso di Fiorano, 64, I-00143 Rome, Italy


Stress is the main non-genetic source of psychopathology. Therefore, the identification of neurobiological bases of resilience, the resistance to pathological outcomes of stress, is a most relevant topic of research. It is an accepted view that resilient individuals are those who do not develop helplessness, or other depression-like phenotypes, following a history of stress. In the present review, we discuss the phenotypic differences between mice of the inbred C57BL/6J and DBA/2J strains that could be associated with the strain-specific resistance to helplessness observable in DBA/2J mice. The reviewed results support the hypothesis that resilience to stress-promoted helplessness develops through interactions between a specific genetic makeup and a history of stress, and is associated with an active coping style, a bias toward the use of stimulus-response learning, and specific adaptive changes of mesoaccumbens dopamine transmission under stress. Finally, evidence that compulsivity represents a side effect of the neuroadaptive processes fostering resistance to develop depressive-like phenotypes under stress is discussed.

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Reviews in the Neurosciences provides a forum for reviews, critical evaluations and theoretical treatment of selective topics in the neurosciences. The journal provides an authoritative reference work for those interested in the structure and functions of the nervous system at all levels of analysis, including the genetic, molecular, cellular, behavioral, cognitive and clinical neurosciences.