Exposure to stressful events can be differently perceived by individuals and can have persistent sequelae depending on the level of stress resilience or vulnerability of each person. The neural processes that underlie such clinically and socially important differences reside in the anatomical, functional, and molecular connectivity of the brain. Recent work has provided novel insight into some of the involved biological mechanisms that promises to help prevent and treat stress-related disorders. In this review, we focus on causal and mechanistic evidence implicating altered functions and connectivity of the neuroendocrine system, and of hippocampal, cortical, reward, and serotonergic circuits in the establishment and the maintenance of stress resilience and vulnerability. We also touch upon recent findings suggesting a role for epigenetic mechanisms and neurogenesis in these processes and briefly discuss promising avenues of future investigation.
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