Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Wei Zhang (Donders series 405)

19 November 2019

Promotor:  prof. dr. ​K. Roelofs, co-promotor: dr. F. Klumpers

The stressed brain: Neural signatures of acute stress and their relevance for long-term stress vulnerability

Why some people develop stress symptoms and others do not, even when being exposed to similar stressors or traumatic events? This thesis contributes to the answer to this question and tested whether individual differences in acute stress responses might be predictive of long-term stress vulnerability.

In specific, the studies in the current thesis first identified the neural biomarkers that are of potential interest for acute stress responses, such as the changes in functional connectivity of large-scale networks. Whether these potential biomarkers could predict stress-related symptom development in a longitudinal fashion was investigated subsequently. A total of 340 police recruits before and after a stressful period in their training phase characterized by numerous trauma exposures were tested. Results reported in this thesis show that the connectivity changes of the default mode and salience networks in response to acute stress induction were most relevant for predicting stress-related symptom development. The findings suggest that salience network-based reconfiguration upon acute stress may serve as a potential marker for stress vulnerability.