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Mol Psychiatry. 2019 Dec;24(12):1770-1778. doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0457-6. Epub 2019 Jul 24.

Genomics and psychological resilience: a research agenda.

Choi KW1,2,3,4, Stein MB5,6, Dunn EC7,8,9,10, Koenen KC7,11,8,9, Smoller JW7,11,8,9.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. kwchoi@mgh.harvard.edu.
2
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA. kwchoi@mgh.harvard.edu.
3
Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Center for Genomic Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. kwchoi@mgh.harvard.edu.
4
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute, Boston, MA, USA. kwchoi@mgh.harvard.edu.
5
Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
6
VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA, USA.
7
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
8
Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Center for Genomic Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
9
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute, Boston, MA, USA.
10
Henry & Allison McCance Center for Brain Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
11
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.

Abstract

Although exposure to adversity increases risk for poor mental health outcomes, many people exposed to adversity do not develop such outcomes. Psychological resilience, defined broadly as positive emotional and/or behavioral adaptation to adversity, may be influenced by genetic factors that have remained largely unexplored in the era of large-scale genome-wide studies. In this perspective, we provide an integrative framework for studying human genome-wide variation underlying resilience. We first outline three complementary working definitions of psychological resilience-as a capacity, process, and outcome. For each definition, we review emerging empirical evidence, including findings from positive psychology, to illustrate how a resilience-based framework can guide novel and fruitful directions for the field of psychiatric genomics, distinct from the ongoing study of psychiatric risk and related traits. Finally, we provide practical recommendations for future genomic research on resilience, highlighting a need to augment cross-sectional findings with prospective designs that include detailed measurement of adversities and outcomes. A research framework that explicitly addresses resilience could help us to probe biological mechanisms of stress adaptation, identify individuals who may benefit the most from prevention and early intervention, and ascertain modifiable protective factors that mitigate negative outcomes even for those at high genetic risk.

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