Using resilience to recover from problems or challenges


Resilience defines the process that enables people to cope and positively adapt in the face of stress or misfortune, and enables them to better handle adversity or rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.

Being resilient does not mean a person has not experienced difficulty or distress or only remaining positive in the most dire of situations. Rather, resilient people are able to use their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems or challenges, such as job loss, financial problems, illness, natural disasters or the death of a loved one.

There are several factors that are associated with resilience, including:

  • The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • Skills in communication and problem solving
  • The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • A feeling that you are a master of your environment and in control
  • A general positive outlook on your life and satisfaction with everything you have achieved

Importantly, these are skills that people can learn and develop for themselves.

In the past decade, resilience has emerged as a major theoretical and research topic. The focus of many studies has been to understand the role of our environment in resilience, as well as the psychological and behavioural factors that contribute to resilience in a person. In contrast, there is still a very limited understanding of the neuroscience or genetics of resilience. In particular, the brain networks that contributes to the resilience process, and how our genetics and environment influences these processes over time.


Genetics and neuroscience of resilience and wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing is not simply the absence of mental illness, yet we know very little about its underlying mechanisms in relative comparison. Dr Justine Gatt and Prof Peter Schofield, together with Prof Leanne Williams (Stanford University) are studying the genetics and neuroscience of resilience and wellbeing in a prospective cohort of 1,600 healthy adult twins. They have recently developed a new 26-item composite scale of wellbeing called COMPAS-W (Gatt et al., 2014, Psychiatry Res), with genetic modelling demonstrating a heritability estimate of 48% for total wellbeing. Multivariate modelling further suggested common genetic factors contributed to wellbeing and its subcomponents of composure, own-worth, mastery, positivity, achievement and satisfaction. Now they are aiming to understand the neuroscience of wellbeing and resilience, how different genes and environments modulate pathways to mental health, and how e-health tools can promote resilience against life stressors.

E-health intervention studies in resilience and wellbeing

In a series of independent studies, the Gatt Group are investigating potential e-health interventions that can be used to promote resilience and wellbeing in collaboration with industry partners.

Mechanisms of reward and reward sensitivity in resilience

Identifying the precise role of reward in the resilience process; in particular the role of reward sensitivity and different paradigms of measurement in young adults.

The international youth resilience study

Understanding youth resilience and ways to promote it across different cultural groups

What else is happening in Resilience research at NeuRA?


'I've got the best job for you dad. Your shaky arm will be perfect for it!'

Children… honest and insightful. Their innocence warms the heart. But what words do you use to explain to a child that daddy has an incurable brain disease? What words tell them that in time he may not be able to play football in the park, let alone feed himself? What words help them understand that in the later stages, dementia may also strike? Aged just 36, this was the reality that faced Steve Hartley. Parkinson's disease didn't care he was a fit, healthy, a young dad and devoted husband. It also didn't seem to care his family had no history of it. The key to defeating Parkinson's disease is early intervention, and thanks to a global research team, led by NeuRA, we're pleased to announce that early intervention may be possible. Your support, alongside national and international foundations Shake it Up Australia and the Michael J Fox Foundation, researchers have discovered that a special protein, found in people with a family history of the disease increases prior to Parkinson’s symptoms developing. This is an incredible step forward, because it means that drug therapies, aimed at blocking the increase in the protein, can be administered much earlier – even before symptoms strike. The next step is to understand when to give the drug therapies and which people will most benefit from it. But we need your help. A gift today will support vital research and in time help medical professionals around the world treat Parkinson’s disease sooner, with much better health outcomes. Thank you, in advance, for your support.