Stress-related disorders, individual differences, and personalized medicine

The term “stress” holds a negative connotation to it. However, in both humans and animals, a surprisingly high level of resilience is found, indicating that resilience is the rule and stress-related pathology the exception. Indeed, studies indicate that stress has been evolved as an important survival reaction in the organism, throughout evolution. It is thus likely that the neural mechanisms associated with trauma-related psychopathology are different from those associated with the response to stress which does not lead to the development of psychopathology (Richter-Levin et al, 2019), emphasizing the need to differentiate between studying the neurobiology of emotionality, stress and trauma.

We have developed a unique data analysis approach, ‘Behavioral Profiling’, which enables us to differentiate between individuals who did and those who did not develop high symptoms, and examine their brains separately (Ritov et al, 2016; Ardi et al, 2016).

Furthermore, within the affected population there is great individual variability in the response to pharmacological treatment. Without understanding the biological basis for this individual variability, it is difficult to effectively subscribe the most suitable medication to a patient. We are developing approaches that would enable predicting the efficacy of a specific drug treatment to an individual, based on identified epigenetic biomarkers. This project will be of great importance to the ability to introduce personalized medicine to psychiatry.