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Research Strategy

An interdisciplinary endeavor

The object of resilience research is the living organism as it adapts to stressors. Resilience cannot be studied only in a cell assay or in a tissue slice recording without referring to behavioral outcomes. Resilience can also not be studied solely in an animal model, without trying to translate findings to the human domain. This requires a truly interdisciplinary approach that involves research at many different levels of analysis. CRC 1193 includes fields as diverse as (epi)genetics, molecular and cellular neurobiology, systems and behavioral neuroscience, and experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The methods employed range from advanced epigenetic and proteomic analyses to genetic, optogenetic, pharmacological and neurotechnological manipulations, to behavioral, psychophysiological and endocrinological measurements, to multi-site electrophysiology, electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), and finally to imaging tools, such as calcium imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Researchers use zebrafish, mouse, rat and the healthy normal human as model systems.

Three program areas

Our interdisciplinary research program is organized in three areas, each reflecting complementary levels of analysis. Subprojects in program area A are primarily located at the level of molecular or cellular analysis. We anticipate research in these subprojects will move from the more fine-grained to the more systemic levels of analysis, represented in program area B, as findings come in. Hence, they will increasingly incorporate research at the neural-network and systems levels to eventually integrate their findings with detailed cognitive and behavioral analyses, performed in research area C. This will ideally involve moving from animal to human models. 

See figure below for the anticipated evolution of the CRC over the three possible funding periods (4 years each). On the other end of the research spectrum, the subprojects in program area C start by investigating cognitive or behavioral constructs, often based on empirical knowledge and/or theory building in the fields of behavioral and clinical psychology. These subprojects, in turn, are required to increasingly integrate neurobiological knowledge into their analyses as they progress. The interdisciplinary architecture of CRC 1193 is optimally suited to facilitate these processes. 

Timeline for the anticipated evolution of CRC subprojects across the three potential funding periods (FP1 – FP3). Shown are five exemplary subprojects SP V to SP Z. The subprojects are expected to move from the more fine-grained to the more systemic levels of analysis as the CRC progresses (arrows). These levels of analysis correspond to program areas A to C. A fourth program area (D, interventional proof-of-principle studies) will be prepared in funding period 1 and inaugurated in funding period 2. SP V starts at the molecular-cellular level, SP W at the neural-networks/systems level and SP X at the cognitive-behavioral level. SP Y is an example of a subproject starting to investigate a new promising molecular-cellular mechanism in a later funding period, e.g., based on novel results in the literature. SP Z (broken arrow) is an example of back-translation where higher-level research (here, SP X) inspires a molecular-cellular subproject in a subsequent funding period.

Two central projects

Resilience is the maintenance or recovery of mental health during and after adversity. But how do we measure this? And do we all measure the same thing? Central projects Z02 and Z03 standardize our assessments of stressor exposure and mental health in animals and humans, provide research subjects to the other subprojects, critically evaluate existing resilience models and develop new approaches to operationalizing and measuring resilience.