The Neuroscience of Extreme Stress

Hours before it made landfall in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria devastated Cayo Santiago, a tiny island half a mile off the coast. This is where Dr. Michael Platt and the researchers at the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative had spent years studying a population of rhesus macaque monkeys.

Miraculously, all of the monkeys survived the storm. This gave Dr. Platt and his team had a unique opportunity to continue to study their brain activity and social behaviors, observing the effects of change, trauma, and extreme stress. 

As a species, humans don’t deal particularly well with stress or change. The American Psychological Association showed that people who had experienced changes at work tended to have worse attitudes, to smoke, drink and eat more, and to experience physical health problems at a higher rate than their peers.

As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, we are experiencing a collective trauma with the potential to reshape the world.

In his keynote presentation at AIIR Summit 2020, Dr. Platt examines how stress physically changes the brain, and how the neuroscience of Cayo Santiago’s monkeys can teach us how to adapt.

 

Want more neuroscience insights from AIIR Summit 2020? Check out our Wharton Neuroscience Initiative panel discussion, “Leading in the Next Decade.

 

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