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Brain Res. 2010 Oct 8;1355:52-60. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.08.039. Epub 2010 Aug 19.

Role of the medial prefrontal cortex in coping and resilience.

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Department of Psychology & Center For Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0345, USA.


The degree of behavioral control that an organism has over an aversive event is well known to modulate the behavioral and neurochemical consequences of exposure to the event. Here we review recent research that suggests that the experience of control over a potent stressor alters how the organism responds to future aversive events as well as to the stressor being controlled. More specifically, subjects that have experienced control show blunted behavioral and neurochemical responses to subsequent stressors occurring days to months later. Indeed, these subjects respond as if a later uncontrollable stressor is actually controllable. Further, we review research indicating that the stress resistance induced by control depends on control-induced activation of ventral medial prefrontal cortical (vmPFC) inhibitory control over brainstem and limbic structures. Furthermore, there appears to be plasticity in these circuits such that the experience of control alters the vmPFC in such a way that later uncontrollable stressors now activate the vmPFC circuitry, leading to inhibition of stress-responsive limbic and brainstem structures, i.e., stressor resistance. This controllability-induced proactive stressor resistance generalizes across very different stressors and may be involved in determining individual difference in reactions to traumatic events.

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