Genetics and neuroscience of resilience and wellbeing (2014-)

Mental health and wellbeing is not simply the absence of mental illness, yet we know very little about its underlying neural and genetic mechanisms in relative comparison. Similarly, we know very little about the underlying mechanisms that contribute towards resilience to stress and adversity. This project led by Dr Justine Gatt aims to identify the genetics and neuroscience of resilience and wellbeing in a prospective cohort of 1,600 healthy adult twins.

Team Members & Collaborators

Dr Justine Gatt is leading this project as NHMRC CDF Research Fellow. Additional investigators on this project include Prof Peter Schofield (NeuRA and UNSW, Australia) and Prof Leanne Williams (Stanford University, USA). The PhD and graduate students involved in this project include: Kylie Routledge (PhD, completed), Rebecca Alexander (PhD), Sandy Wong (ILP, 2018), Miranda Chilver (PhD), Javad Jamshidi (Scientia PhD), and Arthur Montalto (PhD). Research Assistants involved in this project include: Sicong Tu (2016), Emily Crocetti (volunteer RA from Dartmouth USA, 2018). The twin participants for this project were drawn from the Twins Research Australia (TRA) twin registry (https://www.twins.org.au/).

Grant Funding

This project is supported by a NHMRC Career Development Fellowship awarded to Dr Justine Gatt (APP1062495, 2014-2017), a Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research awarded to Dr Justine Gatt ($50,000, 2014-2017), and PhD Scholarships awarded to each PhD student.

Key Outcomes & Publications

One key outcome from this project is the development of the 26-item COMPAS-W Wellbeing Scale (Gatt et al., 2014, Psychiatry Research). What differentiates this wellbeing scale from many others is that it provides a “composite” measure of wellbeing; that is, a measure of both subjective (hedonia) and psychological (eudaimonia) wellbeing. The COMPAS-W scale can be used to calculate total wellbeing, as well as subscale measures of composure, own-worth, mastery, positivity, achievement and satisfaction. Twin modelling was conducted on the scale and heritability (genetic variability) was confirmed to be 48%. Subsequent papers used the COMPAS-W scale to establish novel neurobiological mechanisms of wellbeing and resilience in different samples.

(1) Book chapters and reviews:

Alexander, R., Aragon, O.R., Bookwala, J., Cherbuin, N., Gatt, J.M., Kahrilas, I.J., Kästner, N., Lawrence, A., Lowe, L., Morrison, R.G., Mueller, S.C., Nusslock, R., Papadelis, C., Polnaszek, K.L., Richter, S.H., Silton, R.L., & Styliadis, C. (2021). The neuroscience of positive emotions and affect: Implications for cultivating happiness and wellbeing. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 121, 220-249. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.12.002

Gatt JM (2020). The neuroscience of wellbeing: Part 1, Chapter 37. In: Cohen L. Ed. The Wiley Encyclopedia of Health Psychology. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, p. 325-330. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119057840.ch37

Gatt JM (2020). The neuroscience of wellbeing: Part 2, Chapter 41. In: Cohen L. Ed. The Wiley Encyclopedia of Health Psychology. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, p. 361-372. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119057840.ch41

Alexander R and Gatt JM (2019). Resilience, Chapter 20. In: Miu AC, Homberg JR, Lesch K-P. Eds. Genes, Brain and Emotions: Interdisciplinary and Translational Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 286-303. ISBN: 9780198793014.

(2) Research papers and protocols:

Egan L, Mulcahy M, Tuqiri K, Gatt JM. (2022). The Thrive online wellbeing program for healthcare workers: Protocol for a
randomised controlled trial. JMIR Research Protocols, 11(4): e34005. http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/34005

Jamshidi J, Schofield PR, Gatt JM*, Fullerton JM* (*equal senior authors). (2022). Phenotypic and genetic analysis of a
wellbeing factor score in the UK Biobank and the impact of childhood maltreatment and psychiatric illness. Translational
Psychiatry, 12, 113. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-022-01874-5

Park HRP, Quide Y, Schofield PR, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2022). Grey matter covariation and the role of emotion reappraisal in mental wellbeing and resilience after early life stress exposure. Translational Psychiatry, 12, 85. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-022-01849-6

Montalto A, Park HRP, Williams LM, Korgaonkar MS, Chilver MR, Jamshidi J, Schofield PR, Gatt JM. (2022). Negative association
between anterior insula activation and resilience during sustained attention: an fMRI twin study. Psychological
Medicine. pp 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s0033291721005262

Chilver MR, Park HRP, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2022). Emotional face processing correlates with
depression/anxiety symptoms but not wellbeing in non-clinical adults: An event-related potential study. Journal
of Psychiatric Research, 145, 18-26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.11.038

Boyes A, McLoughlin LT, Anderson H, Schwenn P, Shan Z, Gatt JM, Lagopoulos J, Hermens DF. (2022). Basal ganglia correlates of wellbeing in early adolescence. Brain Research, 1774, pp 147710. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147710

Chilver MR and Gatt JM. (2021). Six-week online multi-component positive psychology intervention improves subjective wellbeing in young adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, Sep 5, 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-021-00449-3

Gatt JM, Burton KLO, Schofield PR, Bryant RA, Williams LM. (2021). Corrigendum to ‘The heritability of mental health and wellbeing defined using COMPAS-W, a new composite measure of wellbeing’: Psychiatry Research, 219 (2014), 204-213. Psychiatry Research, 304. 114141. Accepted 24th July 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2021.114141

Park HRP, Chilver MR, Montalto A, Jamshidi J, Schofield PR, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2021). Associations between mental wellbeing and fMRI neural bases underlying responses to positive emotion in a twin sample. Psychological Medicine, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721002695

Cheng P, Park HRP, Gatt JM (2021). Approach coping mitigates psychological distress of COVID-19 isolation for young men with low wellbeing in a sample of 1749 youth from Australia and the USA. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 634925. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.634925

Routledge KM, Williams LM, Harris AWF, Schofield PR, Gatt JM. (2021). The impact of online brain training exercises on experiences of depression, anxiety and emotional wellbeing in a twin sample. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 134, 138-149. https://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0022-3956(20)31162-6

Jamshidi J, Williams LM, Schofield PR, Park H, Montalto A, Chilver M, Bryant R, Toma C, Fullerton J, Gatt JM. (2020). Diverse phenotypic measurements of wellbeing: Heritability, temporal stability, and the variance explained by polygenic scores. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 19 (8), e12694. https://doi.org/10.1111/gbb.12694

Chilver MR, Keller AS, Park H, Jamshidi J, Montalto A, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Harmon-Jones E, Williams LM, Gatt JM. (2020). Electroencephalography profiles as a biomarker of wellbeing: A twin study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 126: 114-121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.04.010

Gatt JM, Alexander R, Emond A, Foster K, Hadfield K, Mason-Jones A, Reid S, Theron L, Ungar M, Wouldes T, Wu Q. (2020). Trauma, resilience and mental health in migrant and non-migrant youth: An international cross-sectional study across six countries. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10, Article 997. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00997

Wu Q, Ge T, Emond A, Foster K, Gatt JM, Hadfield K, Mason-Jones A, Reid S, Theron L, Ungar M, Wouldes T. (2018). Acculturation, resilience and the mental health of migrant youth: A cross-country comparative study. Public Health, 162, 63-70. 10.1016/j.puhe.2018.05.006

Hadfield K, Ungar M, Emond A, Foster K, Gatt JM, Mason-Jones A, Reid S, Theron L, Wouldes T, Wu Q. (2018). Challenges of developing and conducting an international study of resilience in migrant adolescents. International Social Work, 63 (2), 232-237. doi.org/10.1177/0020872818796147.

Gatt JM, Burton KLO, Routledge KM, Grasby KL, Korgaonkar MS, Grieve SM, Schofield PR, Harris AWF, Clark CR, Williams LM. (2018). A negative association between brainstem pontine gray matter volume, wellbeing and resilience in healthy twins. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Jun 20; 43(6): 386-395. https://doi.org/doi: 10.1503/jpn.170125

Routledge KM, Williams LM, Harris AWF, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Gatt JM. (2018). Genetic correlations between wellbeing, depression and anxiety symptoms and behavioral responses to the emotional faces task in healthy twins. Psychiatry Research, 264, 385-393.

Routledge KM, Burton KLO, Williams LM, Harris A, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Gatt JM. (2017). The shared and unique genetic relationship between mental wellbeing, depression and anxiety symptoms and cognitive function in healthy twins. Cognition and Emotion, 31(7), 1465-1479.

Routledge KM, Burton KLO, Williams LM, Harris A, Schofield PR, Clark CR, Gatt JM. (2016). Shared versus distinct genetic contributions of mental wellbeing with depression and anxiety symptoms in healthy twins. Psychiatry Research, 244, 65-70.

Gatt JM, Burton KLO, Williams LM, Schofield PR. (2015). Specific and common genes implicated across major mental disorders: A review of meta-analysis studies. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 60, 1-13.

Gatt JM, Burton KLO, Schofield PR, Bryant RA, Williams LM. (2014). The heritability of mental health and wellbeing defined using COMPAS-W, a new composite measure of wellbeing. Psychiatry Research, 219 (1), 204-213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2014.04.033