Stress, Brain & Cognition

Mental illness becomes the second leading causes of disability in contemporary society, making it an urgent public health concern. Exposure to excessive stress is a key risk factor of mental illness, and leads to brain dysfunctions and poor health outcomes such as anxiety and depression.

Using brain imaging, cognitive and behavioral techniques, psychophysiology and genetic imaging, our research has demonstrated that acute stress impairs brain fronto-parietal networks in higher-order cognitive functions, but increases emotion-related brain circuitry’s sensitivity to threatening stimuli. These effects might be resulted from activation of multiple stress-sensitive neuromodulators and hormones, with the genetic signatures including ADRA2B and COMT. These findings have the potential to inspire the development of brain-inspired biomarkers and precision targeted approaches for the early detection and individualized treatment for stress-related mental illness. This line of research has yielded a series of original articles published in high-profile journals, and has been highly cited by worldwide researchers in the field: