Approaches to Building Resilience

Research with children can teach adults about building resilience, says Dr. Barbara Sahakian.


[00:00:00] Stephen Calabria: From the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, this is Road to Resilience, a podcast about facing adversity. I’m

Stephen Calabria. On this episode we welcome Barbara Sahakian, PhD, a Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge and the author of two popular science books, the most recent of which is called “Sex, Lies, and Brain Scans: How fMRI Reveals What Really Goes on in Our Minds.”

[00:00:28] Dr. Sahakian has authored and coauthored numerous studies, including one from June of this year that examined 10,000 young adolescents in the United States, and came away with lessons in health and resilience that can help anyone.

[00:00:43] We’re pleased to have Dr. Sahakian on the show.

[00:00:46] Dr. Barbara Sahakian, welcome to Road to Resilience.

[00:00:50] Barbara Sahakian: Thank you very much. It's great to be here.

[00:00:51] Stephen Calabria: If you would, could you give us a brief primer on your background?

[00:00:55] Barbara Sahakian: Yes, I was an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. And, I, grew up in Boston area. And then, um, I came over to Cambridge in, in the UK to do my PhD at the University of Cambridge.

[00:01:09] And I went back and I did my postdoctoral work at MIT. And then I took up an associate professorship in the Department of Neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. And then I came back again and I've been at the Institute of Neurology, Institute of Psychiatry in London. And then, finally, landed back in Cambridge and I've been here ever since as a First as a lecturer, then a reader, and now a professor.

[00:01:36] Stephen Calabria: So if you would, there has been a great deal of research recently into adverse childhood experiences. Could you talk about how do you define adverse childhood experiences and how they've contributed to the literature so far?

[00:01:51] Barbara Sahakian: Well, there's many forms of adverse childhood experiences. I mean, just being in poverty can be very aversive because it causes more stress. Probably the housing you're living in isn't as good. It can be more family conflict because you're not as financially secure and that sort of thing.

[00:02:09] But then there's other, bullying at school, it's a very adverse experience for children. Also, there's sexual and physical abuse, which is clearly a very adverse experience for children and young people. And those things can carry on throughout your whole life. They leave a stamp, basically, which can be difficult to overcome.

[00:02:30] And often, as a clinical psychologist, which I also am, you have to, uh, when you're dealing with somebody who's had an adverse experience as an adult, you often have to discuss the fact that you can let that define you or you can try to be resilient and overcome that and work to goals that will help you achieve what you want to do in life and, and actually try to realize your potential.

[00:02:55] So it's very important that, you know, you try as best you can to overcome these adversities that you have, but some of them are very difficult to overcome depending on how severe they are and how persistent and chronic they were and so forth. So, somebody like myself who actually had a very positive childhood experience is set up much better for life in general.

Download Transcript