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.


Longitudinal neural trajectories of vulnerability versus resilience in adult twins

Dr Gatt is leading a project that focuses on identifying the longitudinal neural trajectories of vulnerability versus resilience in adult twins. This project involves a 9-year and 11-year follow-up of our adult twin cohort from the TWIN-E Emotional Wellbeing Study.

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?


The cold case of schizophrenia - broken wide open!

‘It is like they were miraculously healed!’’ Schizophrenia is diagnosed by clinical observation of behaviour and speech. This is why NeuRA researchers are working hard to understand the biological basis of the illness. Through hours of work and in collaboration with doctors and scientists here and around the world, NeuRA has made an amazing breakthrough. For the first time, researchers have discovered the presence of antibodies in the brains of people who lived with schizophrenia. Having found these antibodies, it has led NeuRA researchers to ask two questions. What are they doing there? What should we do about the antibodies– help or remove them? This is a key breakthrough. Imagine if we are treating schizophrenia all wrong! It is early days, but can you imagine the treatment implications if we’ve identified a new biological basis for the disease? It could completely change the way schizophrenia is managed, creating new treatments that will protect the brain. More than this, could we be on the verge of discovering a ‘curable’ form of schizophrenia? How you can help We are so grateful for your loyal support of schizophrenia research in Australia, and today I ask if you will consider a gift today. Or, to provide greater confidence, consider becoming a Discovery Partner by making a monthly commitment. We believe there is great potential to explore these findings. Will you help move today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s cure? To read more about this breakthrough, click ‘read the full story’ below. You are also invited to read ‘Beth’s story’, whose sweet son Marcus lived with schizophrenia, by clicking here.