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What the Distinctive Brains of Resilient People Can Teach Us

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What the Distinctive Brains of Resilient People Can Teach Us


5 min read
4 take-aways
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People can transform negative emotions and experiences into motivations by becoming more resilient.

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Applicable
  • Inspiring


Resilience helps people negotiate life’s ups and downs, sometimes spurring them toward greater achievements. But why do some people thrive on adversity, stress and trauma, while others become mentally unstable? Dr. Laura Moreno-López and her University of Cambridge team discovered physical manifestations of resilience in the brain, leading them to conclude that this critical human trait can be learned.


Almost everyone experiences traumatic events, but people respond to them in various ways.

Cisco García turned adversity into positivity. After shattering his spine in a snowboarding accident at age 33, he felt challenged to become a star wheelchair tennis player. Five years later, after enduring painful rehabilitation, he ranked 66th in the world. Garcia claimed he was able to morph depression and sadness into motivational anger.

People deal with stress and trauma in personalized ways. Some react to personal tragedies such as the death of a loved one by becoming obsessed with painful memories. They are overwhelmed by haunting, debilitating nightmares. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) causes some individuals to numb emotional upheavals with drugs or alcohol. Others, like Garcia, thrive after stressful events. They display “resilience.”

Psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” They study...

About the Author

Laura Moreno-López, PhD is a Wolfe Health Neuroscience Fellow and Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, where she studies “resilient functioning” in traumatized adolescents and young adults.

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