Dr. Panter-Brick: Biomarkers of resilience

I want to briefly talk about what we call the biomarkers of resilience. These include measures of blood pressure, stress hormones, immune function, and gene methylation. We can use these biomarkers to help us connect the dots between the neurobiology and physiology of resilience and the culture of resilience. Let’s say we want to know the extent to which an intervention to reduce stress really works—perhaps an intervention such as “mindful meditation” or a “psychosocial” intervention to treat or alleviate traumatic stress symptoms. One powerful use of biomarkers would be to measure physiological stress before and after such an intervention. I am advocating this approach, because I do think that using biomarkers for program evaluation is a growth area for research in the future. This is not just because we want to willy-nilly use biomarkers to measure the signatures of adversity on the human body, but because we think that, once we understand resilience, we should be savvy in measuring indicators of change in resilience-building interventions over time. Biomarkers offer us an evaluation tool other than self-reported data on feelings and behaviors. They help us understand the mechanisms through which risk and resilience leave epigenetic and physiological signatures on the body, which have developmental implications for young children and long-term health implications for adults.


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