Racefan’s Ramblings

Collecting my thoughts, news and inspirations on Tech, Psychology, Motorsport and … well anything!! . . . . . . . . . STILL UNDER DEVELOPMENT IN LIMITED SPARE TIME!

Genes, Experiences Determine a Person’s Ability to Bounce Back

Posted by Pat Kershaw on November 29, 2006

Interesting that the thinking that has linked peoples contrasting reactions under stress, is now going back, to where people used to believe that what you see under stress is the “real” personality. Unfortunately I feel both views are a little simplistic, as some people act totally calm and totally different in stressful situations, but fall to pieces over time, and others are the exact opposite. I fear the truth is closer to a cognitive-emotional-logical “override” mode that works in some, and possibly not in others, as otherwise, (like most of psychology), this study actually generates more questions than the science answers…

Why do we always expect one little titbit to be able to explain the worlds most complex organism, and the “only” (for the purposes of this debate) one with free will and imagination to complicate even the simplest cognitive theories…

Long-term studies of child
development indicate that some people remain psychologically healthy despite
years of severe deprivation and trauma. Researchers are now studying the
characteristics and circumstances surrounding the ability to endure stress and
bounce back-a quality they call resilience, reports the December 2006 issue of
the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

Ok so that is common sense so far

Adapting to stress is a complex process … [and recent] … advances in genetics, psychopharmacology, and brain imaging now permit
closer study of the biological underpinnings of resilience.

… [Studies of] interactions between early experience and
genetically determined neurobiology [has linked] Low levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A)… [an aggression controlling protein] … [in] … maltreated boys with the short gene were more likely than those with
the long variant to commit violent crimes and to score high on measures of
aggressive tendencies.[“short” form is less effective]

If the neurochemicals are important, then so are the brain circuits in which
they operate. Using brain imaging and other techniques, researchers are now
looking at how the brain’s structure and function, as well as a person’s
cognitive and neuropsychological characteristics, are linked to resilience.

“Clinicians once were inclined to assume that resilience in traumatic
situations, especially chronic trauma, was exceptional and required special
explanations,” says Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental
Health Letter. “Today, they are coming to understand it as an especially
effective form of normal adaptation.”

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2 Responses to “Genes, Experiences Determine a Person’s Ability to Bounce Back”

  1. carnnell said

    I am a retired psychotherapist of 23+ years. This is very interesting article.

    I am glad they are looking more into the neuropsychiatric perspective and just not relying totally on psychological paradigms. Yet these studies are in their infancy stages of analysis and understanding. It is very easy to jump from hypothesis to theories to explain disorders for a rush to find answers.

    You ask “Why do we always..” in the second paragraph. My perspective is humans tend to want immediate answers to the question of “Who am I or Who are We”, I or We being us as a species. We really have not come up with those definitions to adequately blanket all aspects of the brain of homo sapien. However we keep trying.

    Take Care

  2. Carnell,
    Thanks, and so right. I am a bit groggy tonite, but wanted to say that the point I was making, (as well) is the tendency to “lock on” to the latest fad, be it a diet, exersise routine, political issue, or psychological/neurological/…cognitive explanation for a behavior, development, change or even trait. (and I use the word Trait loosely there)
    We refuse to accept that most issues, or processes have individual differences, and so we end up with the good old democratic/committee processes where we pick the lowest common denominator, and measure from there. Problem is they can be a long way from the mean… and have no relevance at all to whole swathes (can’t think of the word…) of the population.


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