Stress can have a negative influence on the human brain, but increasingly it is the ability to withstand severe stress that is the focus of research.
Daniela Kaufer has a personal interest in the effects of stress. “My mum's family had a very traumatic experience when their mother died in childbirth,” she explains. The three children grew up motherless, in 1950s war-torn Israel, but there was a marked difference in how well the siblings coped. “My mum had an extremely difficult early life,” she says. “Yet she is extremely resilient.” Kaufer, who is a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, says that why her mother in particular coped so well has fascinated her.