The main objectives of this module are:
After completion of the course, students are able to
- understand the concept of stress, and the neuroanatomical basis of stress biology.
- explain the impact of stressful experiences during early development on brain programming and later responding to threatening situations in adulthood.
- explain genetic and environmental factors contributing to individual differences in the perception, appraisal and coping style to threatening situations.
- understand the mechanistic underpinnings of cognitive control and adaptive and potentially maladaptive responses to threatening situations.
- design an experimental set-up to answer basic research questions about the neurobiological basis of brain responses to stress and their individual differences.
Every day we experience stress in varying forms and degrees. When we are exposed to potential threats (stressors), our brain initiates a course of actions that induces behavioral, physiological and neuroendocrine responses. These responses prepare us to effectively cope with the stressor, which can, however, become maladaptive under certain conditions or for vulnerable individuals. In this course, students will learn the fundamental principles of stress neurobiology and affective processing in animal models and humans such as the neuroanatomical and neuroendocrine basis of stress as well as the neurocognitive mechanisms regulating the perception, appraisal, and an adequate adaptive response to threatening situations. Genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors that determine individual differences in how we perceive and cope with stressful situations will also be discussed. The full understanding of this topic requires an interdisciplinary approach that integrates neuroscience, endocrinology, physiology, (epi)genetics, and psychiatry.