Please note that there are two different conference venues:
June 14/15 - Century City Conference Centre
June 16 - Kirstenbosch Conference Centre (transportation available)
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Thursday, June 15 • 15:00 - 16:30
Invited Symposium: The neurobiology of resilience and gene-environment mechanisms - Justine Gatt, Michael Pluess, Alan Emond, Robert Paul

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Invited Symposium Summary
The neurobiology of resilience and gene-environment mechanisms

Presenters: Justine Gatt, Michael Pluess, Alan Emond, Robert Paul
The neuroscience of resilience is a burgeoning field. This symposium will present leading edge theory and research in resilience from human studies. The role of environment versus genetics will be specifically discussed, and their modulating role on brain function drawing on examples from neuropsychological and brain imaging techniques.

Invited Symposium Abstracts
Resilience and Environmental Sensitivity: A Neurobiological Perspective 
Michael Pluess (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
Introduction: The observation that some people are more affected than others by the same experience is usually framed in a Diathesis-Stress perspective: some people are more vulnerable to adverse experiences as a function of inherent risk characteristics (e.g., personality, genes). More recently, it has been suggested in the Differential Susceptibility framework 
Methods: (Belsky & Pluess, 2009) that individuals may vary in their “Environmental Sensitivity” more generally with some being more affected by both negative as well as positive environmental influences. Variation in response to positive experiences has been described in more detail in the new concept of Vantage Sensitivity (Pluess & Belsky, 2013). Thinking behind the concepts of Differential Susceptibility and Vantage Sensitivity, as well as other related theories, suggests that it may be genetically influenced characteristics of the central nervous system that predict Environmental Sensitivity. After introducing an overarching theoretical framework for individual differences in Environmental Sensitivity (Pluess, 2015) empirical evidence
Findings: for such differences will be presented featuring related personality, genetic, and neuroimaging factors as moderators of a wide range of experiences ranging from family environment to psychological intervention. Finally, implications of a perspective of Environmental Sensitivity on the traditional prevalent conceptualisation of resilience will be discussed.

The importance of IQ in promoting resilience in children and young people.
Presenter: Alan Emond (University of Bristol, UK)
Co-Authors: Nisreen Khambati, Jon Heron 
Introduction: We report a longitudinal study investigating the role of IQ in promoting resilience in children and young people.
Methods: The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children is an on-going UK cohort study, which tested over 5,000 ALSPAC participants with a short version of the WISC III in research clinics at the age of 8, and measures of wellbeing, mental health and educational outcomes in 4,000 participants at age 17/18 years. The adversity exposure was child physical and emotional maltreatment prior to 5 years reported by the parents. A series of analyses have looked at the protective effect of IQ on the impact of other developmental traits, including social communication difficulties, inattention/hyperactivity and poor motor co-ordination.
Findings: The importance of IQ in promoting resilient adaptation to adversity will be explored using the exposure of maltreatment (physical and emotional abuse) and the outcomes of wellbeing, self-esteem and educational attainment in late adolescence. Potential interactions with other cognitive abilities and developmental traits will be presented, demonstrating the role of IQ in pathways to resilience across childhood and adolescence.

Demographic and clinical predictors of brain structure and function in early life stress
Presenter: Robert Paul (University of Missouri, USA
Co-Authors: Dan Stein, John Joska, Jackie Hoare 
Introduction: Early life stress (ELS) events are linked to poor health across the lifespan. Prior work suggests these outcomes are linked to ELS-mediated neurodevelopmental disruption and associated dysregulation of cognitive and emotional behavior. The critical demographic and ELS-specific variables that underlie these health outcomes remain unclear. We examined age, sex, and 
Methods: ELS subtype as moderators of brain integrity in otherwise healthy individuals (n=178). Brain integrity was measured using structural and diffusion neuroimaging and cognitive performance, all from an archival database. Results suggested that older age of ELS onset and exposure to complex trauma (e.g., abuse) corresponded to reduced brain integrity on neuroimaging and cognitive measures. The effects were most pronounced in brain white matter. Together, the correspondence between white matter disruption and demographic and clinical variables informs the neurodevelopmental model of ELS. Myelination and axonal widening in brain white matter continues through young adulthood and these brain regions are susceptible to
Findings: pathogenic mechanisms, including processes implicated in ELS such as immune activation. Future studies are needed to examine the interdependence of ELS, neurodevelopmental stage, immune dysregulation, and brain integrity in order to more completely define the neuropathogenic model of ELS and ideally identify targets for clinical interventions.

Cognitive and neuroimaging markers of wellbeing and resilience in adult twins
Presenter: Justine M Gatt ( Neuroscience Research Australia and UNSW, Australia)
Co-Authors: Kylie Routledge, Karen Burton, Mayuresh Korgaonkar, Stuart Grieve, Anthony Harris 
Introduction: Research into the neuroscience of resilience has increasingly emerged over recent years. We propose that the neural networks of threat, reward and executive functioning may play a key role in modulating the resilience process, yet this remains to be confirmed. We examined the role of these networks in resilience using
Methods: both neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 1,684 healthy adult twins from the TWIN-E study of whom 270 twins also completed the MRI testing (Gatt et al., 2012). We defined higher resilience by higher scores on our COMPAS-W composite scale of wellbeing (Gatt et al., 2014) in the presence of adverse childhood trauma exposure. Evidence will be presented demonstrating associations between wellbeing and mental illness symptoms, and how specific neuropsychological functions (e.g., working memory, inhibition) and brain activity to functional MRI tasks that measure threat vs reward and executive functioning (e.g., emotional faces and Go/no-go inhibition tasks) may modulate the resilience process. 
Findings: By comparing monozygotic (MZ) to dizygotic (DZ) twins, we can also show how genetics and environment drive these associations. Together, the findings will highlight the core neural networks that underpin wellbeing and resilience. Implications for preventative mental health and intervention work will also be discussed.  


Alan Emond

University of Bristol

Justine Gatt

NeuRA and UNSW

Robert Paul

Missouri Institute of Mental Health
avatar for Michael Pluess

Michael Pluess

Associate Professor / Head of Department, Queen Mary University of London

Thursday June 15, 2017 15:00 - 16:30 SAST
Room 11 Century City Conference Centre