Resilience and cortical thickness: a MRI study

  • Michael Kahl
  • Gerd Wagner
  • Feliberto de la Cruz
  • Stefanie Köhler
  • C. Christoph SchultzEmail author
Original Paper


Resilience is defined as the psychological resistance which enables the processing of stress and adverse life events and thus constitutes a key factor for the genesis of psychiatric illness. However, little is known about the morphological correlates of resilience in the human brain. Hence, the aim of this study is to examine the neuroanatomical expression of resilience in healthy individuals. 151 healthy subjects were recruited and had to complete a resilience-specific questionnaire (RS-11). All of them underwent a high-resolution T1-weighted MRI in a 3T scanner. Fine-grained cortical thickness was analyzed using FreeSurfer. We found a significant positive correlation between the individual extent of resilience and cortical thickness in a right hemispherical cluster incorporating the lateral occipital cortex, the fusiform gyrus, the inferior parietal cortex as well as the middle and inferior temporal cortex, i.e., a reduced resilience is associated with a decreased cortical thickness in these areas. We lend novel evidence for a direct linkage between psychometric resilience and local cortical thickness. Our findings in a sample of healthy individuals show that a lower resilience is associated with a lower cortical thickness in anatomical areas are known to be involved in the processing of emotional visual input. These regions have been demonstrated to play a role in the pathogenesis of stress and trauma-associated disorders. It can thus be assumed that neuroanatomical variations in these cortical regions might modulate the susceptibility for the development of stress-related disorders.


Resilience Morphological Cortical thickness Lateral occipital cortex Fusiform gyrus Inferior parietal cortex Middle temporal cortex Inferior temporal cortex 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyJena University HospitalJenaGermany
  2. 2.Psychiatric Brain and Body Research Group Jena, Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyJena University HospitalJenaGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyKlinikum Fulda gAG, Universitätsmedizin Marburg, Campus FuldaFuldaGermany

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