Resilience After Individual Stress Exposure

Approximately half of all children and adolescents in our society experience at least one adverse event when they are growing up. Such adversity can take many forms, ranging from being bullied or having experienced abuse or neglect, to having had parents with mental health issues. For some, such stressful experiences can be very difficult to deal with and sometimes may lead to mental health problems. Others, however, have normal mental health after experiencing adversity. We call this ‘resilient functioning’, or ‘resilience’.

We do not yet know what it is that makes some individuals do well after adversity. We know that having the support of friends and family, and being able to talk to someone may help, but we do not know what it is within the body that may help people to become resilient. It is important to research these factors and mechanisms in order to better understand resilience, and to ultimately help others to become more resilient. The aim of The RAISE Study is to investigate how resilient people respond to stress. Specifically, we will study how key biological systems (HPA-axis, immune system) interact with the brain and social environment in order to facilitate resilient functioning after childhood adversities.

The RAISE Study has 3 phases:

Phase 1 (at home): you will be invited to complete a set of questionnaires and 2 computer tasks online. We will ask you some personal information and other questions about your mood, behaviour and personality. You don’t have to answer any questions that make you feel uncomfortable. After having conducted phase 1 at home, you will be contacted to make an appointment to come to Addenbrooke’s Hospital (Cambridge) for phase 2.

Phase 2 (at Addenbrooke’s): on this day, you will come to Addenbrooke’s Hospital having not eaten or drunk anything since the night before. You will have breakfast, an interview with a member of our team, a physical examination (to measure your height, weight, etc.) and a brain scan. During the brain scan, you will be asked to do a task that can be stressful. In order to evaluate your levels of cortisol and other neuro-inflammatory markers associated with your response to stress, we will take blood samples at different time points. We will collect a maximum of 30 ml of venous blood. Some of the blood will be used to count the number of different immune cell types in your blood, and some will be used to extract your RNA in order to measure certain genes. We will use this information to examine whether resilient adolescents can be distinguished in terms of immunophenotype or gene expression levels. Your blood samples will be processed and stored anonymously using a code number in Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Phase 3 (at home): roughly a month after phase 2, you will be asked to complete a second set of questionnaires online. You don’t have to answer any questions that make you feel uncomfortable.

Take part in The RAISE Study!

We are currently recruiting participants for The RAISE Study.

You may be able to take part if you meet the following criteria:

  • Are between 16-26 years old.
  • Have no current mental health diagnosis.
  • Have experienced adversity in childhood or adolescence.
  • Have a BMI between 18.5 and 29.9 kg/m2.
  • Have no learning disability requiring specialist educational support and/or medical treatment.
  • Are free from any immunological disorders, cardiovascular disorders, endocrine and autoimmune disorders, infections as they may influence the hormones that we are interested in.
  • Are not taking any medications (including benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers or any other drugs) as they may influence the way your body responds to stress.
  • Are eligible for MRI scanning (meaning you have no metal implants and meet other additional safety criteria – further information will be assessed after you have indicated an interest in participating).

Participants will be reimbursed £150 upon completion of all 3 phases of the study (travel expenses will also be reimbursed on top of this).

Contact us!

If you think you meet the criteria above and are interested in taking part in The RAISE Study, we’d love to hear from you!

You can email RAISE@medschl.cam.ac.uk or telephone 07935 074425 if you’d prefer to speak directly with a member of the team.

Meet the RAISE team

Dr. Anne-Laura van Harmelen (PI)

Dr. Laura Moreno-Lopez (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Alicia Smith (Research Assistant)

Dr. Konstantinos Ioannis (Clinical Psychiatrist)

Dr. Muzaffer Kaser (Clinical Psychiatrist)

Dr. Paul Wilkinson (Clinical Psychiatrist)


The RAISE Study is funded by The Royal Society