Is Resilience to Stress Reflected by How We Form Memories?

Teya Daneva



Year of study:


We all know that one person who seems to be immune to stress. Perhaps, we can also think of a few people who wouldn’t handle an aversive event well. Surely, we know a lot of people who have experienced a distressing event, yet only a few are suffering from an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What could possibly underly the inter-individual differences in stress susceptibility? Yes, so many things! Did you think of the way we form memories, though? A lot of neuroscientists did. The hippocampus is one of the most well-studied structures in the brain that is key for episodic memory. What do we know about the epigenetic regulation of a memory episode in the hippocampus, however?

Studying how gene regulation is linked to memory functioning offers promising findings not only on what could possibly go wrong in the traumatic memory trace in people who are susceptible to stress but also on the cellular correlates of memory. During my placement, I studied the exciting implications of an epigenetic mechanism known as DNA methylation in memory functioning in PTSD. I addressed the question of whether resilience to stress is reflected by aberrant gene regulation that controls memory processes. Thanks to recent advances in the field, scientists are one step closer to identifying biomarkers for stress resilience that also come with ethical questions about their applications. I would like to take you from my project at the lab to the bigger picture of this field of research.