Neurocognitive mechanism of human resilience: a conceptual framework and empirical review

Zai Fu Yao, Shulan Hsieh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Resilience is an innate human capacity that holds the key to uncovering why some people rebound after trauma and others never recover. Various theories have debated the mechanisms underlying resilience at the psychological level but have not yet incorporated neurocognitive concepts/findings. In this paper, we put forward the idea that cognitive flexibility moderates how well people adapt to adverse experiences, by shifting attention resources between cognition–emotion regulation and pain perception. We begin with a consensus on definitions and highlight the role of cognitive appraisals in mediating this process. Shared concepts among appraisal theories suggest that cognition–emotion, as well as pain perception, are cognitive mechanisms that underlie how people respond to adversity. Frontal brain circuitry sub-serves control of cognition and emotion, connecting the experience of physical pain. This suggests a substantial overlap between these phenomena. Empirical studies from brain imaging support this notion. We end with a discussion of how the role of the frontal brain network in regulating human resilience, including how the frontal brain network interacts with cognition–emotion–pain perception, can account for cognitive theories and why cognitive flexibilities’ role in these processes can create practical applications, analogous to the resilience process, for the recovery of neural plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5123
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 2

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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