Course The science of stress and resilience

ECTS: 1.3

Course leader: Karen Johanne Pallesen

Language: English

Graduate school: Faculty of Health

Graduate program: ClinFO

Course fee: 1,560.00 DKK

Status: Course is open for application

Semester: Fall 2023

Application deadline: 05/09/2023

Start date: 03/10/2023

Administrator: Thilde Møller Risgaard

The course C309/03 The science of stress and resilience is being offered by the Graduate School of Health, Aarhus University, 2023.

Criteria for participation: University degree in medicine, dentistry, nursing, or master’s degree in other fields and/or postgraduate research fellows (PhD students and research-year medical students).

Recommended knowledge for participation: Basic knowledge about human psychology, CNS anatomy and physiology is an advantage, but not required.

Aim: Chronic stress is an increasing problem associated with poor life quality and diseases. This course offers detailed insight into the processes of the stress response and its counterpart, resilience, and discuss how current knowledge can be used to prevent and treat stress and advance clinical practice.

Learning outcomes: After this course, participants should be able to:

  • Present definitions of stress and major stress theories
  • Describe the signalling pathways of the fight-flight response
  • Explain the psychophysiological processes that correspond to commonly experienced stress symptoms such as increases in heart rate, sweaty palms and “the mind going blank”
  • Describe the signalling pathways of the freeze response
  • Describe current insight into the neurobiological foundations of resilience
  • Place fight/flight, freeze, and resilience in the context of evolution and explain why stress has become a big problem in modern societies
  • Give examples of observed associations between personality traits and stress threshold
  • Give examples on the association between genes and individual variation in stress/resilience
  • Explain how environmental/social factors can affect the stress threshold of the individual person, or alternatively, raise resilience
  • Explain how trauma (severe and/or long-term stress) can “lock” victims in fight-flight-freeze mode, simultaneously blocking processes involved in safe social engagement
  • Explain other mechanisms that link ongoing stress to somatic and psychiatric diseases (heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression).
  • Explain the processes that lead from long-term stress to inflammation. Why is this insight critical?
  • Explain how different stress reduction methods exert their effects (the psychophysiological mechanisms)
  • Discuss how clinical practice may benefit from scientific insights into the biology of stress

Workload: The full workload of the course is expected to be 32 hours.

Content: In this course, the major stress theories will be presented, and participants will be introduced to stress, defined as a continuously ongoing physiological adaptation to changes and challenges (stressors) with the ultimate goal of returning to homeostasis. Whereas temporary stress can be positively stimulating, long-term stress can induce perturbations that make tissues prone to pathological processes and diseases. We will dive into up-to-date knowledge about the genetic predispositions, environmental preconditions and behavioural manifestations of stress and resilience. It will be explained how abuse, neglect, and other trauma can induce life-long maladaptive reactions to stress. The implications to clinical practice of current insights from stress/resilience science will be discussed, and evidence-based methods of stress reduction/resilience training and the supposed underlying mechanisms will be introduced.

The course will include lectures and exercises such as sharing in pairs and group presentations of central topics.

Instructors: Karen Johanne Pallesen

Venue: Aarhus University, Aarhus

Participation in the course is without cost for:

  • PhD students, Health Research Year students and Health Research Honours Programme students from Aarhus University
  • PhD students enrolled at partner universities of the Nordoc collaboration
  • PhD students from other institutions in the open market agreement for PhD courses

Course dates:

  • 03 October 2023 14:00 - 16:00
  • 10 October 2023 14:00 - 16:00
  • 24 October 2023 14:00 - 16:00
  • 30 October 2023 14:00 - 16:00
  • 13 November 2023 14:00 - 16:00
  • 20 November 2023 14:00 - 16:00
  • 27 November 2023 14:00 - 16:00
  • 04 December 2023 14:00 - 16:00