Resilience and young people's brain structure, function and connectivity: A systematic review

Steve Eaton, Harriet Cornwell, Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis, Graeme Fairchild

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (SciVal)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Although negative early life experiences are associated with an increased risk of developing psychopathology, some individuals exposed to childhood adversity demonstrate psychological resilience. Little is known about the neural correlates of resilience, especially in young people. To address this gap, we conducted a systematic review of neuroimaging studies of resilience in youth. The PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and PsycINFO databases were searched; 5,482 studies were identified. Following title/abstract screening, and full reading of the remaining articles, 22 studies based on 19 unique datasets were included. We found preliminary evidence that resilience is associated with structural, functional, and connectivity differences in young people, as assessed using structural and functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging methods. Despite heterogeneity in definitions/assessment of resilience and a limited number of studies, the neuroimaging literature suggests some convergence across modalities regarding brain regions linked to resilience (especially the prefrontal cortex). Future studies would benefit from adopting longitudinal designs, broader conceptualisations of resilience that capture the impact of adversity exposure, and a dimensional approach to psychopathology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-956
Number of pages21
JournalNeuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date2 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Adolescent
  • Brain structure
  • Child
  • Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)
  • Neuroimaging
  • Resilience
  • Systematic review
  • Youth
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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