Brain functional connectivity correlates of coping styles

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2018 Jun;18(3):495-508. doi: 10.3758/s13415-018-0583-7.


Coping abilities represent the individual set of mental and behavioral strategies adopted when facing stress or traumatic experiences. Coping styles related to avoidance have been linked to a disposition to develop psychiatric disorders such as PTSD, anxiety, and major depression, whereas problem-oriented coping skills have been positively correlated with well-being and high quality of life. Even though coping styles constitute an important determinant of resilience and can impact many aspects of everyday living, no study has investigated their brain functional connectivity underpinnings in humans. Here we analyzed both psychometric scores of coping and resting-state fMRI data from 102 healthy adult participants. Controlling for personality and problem-solving abilities, we identified significant links between the propensity to adopt different coping styles and the functional connectivity profiles of regions belonging to the default mode (DMN) and anterior salience (AS) networks-namely, the anterior cingulate cortex, left frontopolar cortex, and left angular gyrus. Also, a reduced negative correlation between AS and DMN nodes explained variability in one specific coping style, related to avoiding problems while focusing on the emotional component of the stressor at hand, instead of relying on cognitive resources. These results might be integrated with current neurophysiological models of resilience and individual responses to stress, in order to understand the propensity to develop clinical conditions (e.g., PTSD) and predict the outcomes of psychotherapeutic interventions.

Keywords: Connectivity; Coping; Network; Resilience; fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Young Adult