Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Jasper van Oort (Donders series 531)

9 November 2021

Promotors: Prof. dr. A.H. Schene, Prof. dr. I. Tendolkar, Prof. dr. G. Fernández
Co-promotor: Dr. P.F.P. van Eijndhoven

The stressed brain in health and psychopathology: A transdiagnostic approach.

Clinically, it is well-established that vulnerability to stress is a common feature across a broad spectrum of psychiatric disorders. However, the neural mechanisms of stress have been almost exclusively studied in patients with stress-related disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders. Therefore, in the current thesis the brain’s stress response was investigated in health and across diverse non-psychotic psychiatric disorders in order to get a better understanding of the transdiagnostic mechanisms of vulnerability to stress. Since an adaptive stress response is characterized by the reallocation of resources across large-scale brain networks to cope with a stressor, we set out to study if disruptions in these networks may be involved in maladaptation to stress. The results in this thesis show that disruptions in the stress response of especially the default mode network, executive control network and frontoparietal network are associated with higher-order cognitive and negative valence symptoms across the psychopathological continuum, from health to diverse psychiatric disorders. These findings provide insight into the relationship between maladaptation to stress and psychiatric symptoms. A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of vulnerability to stress, may ultimately provide opportunities for the development of more effective and personalized treatments.