PhD conferral Katherine Christophe Bassil
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Bart P.F. Rutten
Co-supervisors: Dr. Gunter Kenis, Dr. Laurence C.C. de Nijs
Keywords: early life stress, brain development, ethical issues of advanced technologies, ethical challenges of biomarkers in the military
"Stress-in-a-dish: Modeling the neurobiology of glucocorticoids in vitro, investigating stress susceptibility, and highlighting ethical implications"
This thesis investigated the impact of chronic stress on the developing human brain. Early life stress can leave children and adolescents vulnerable to stress-related disorders like depression, highlighting it as a significant public health concern. To better understand how chronic stress impacts the developing brain, a laboratory model was used to examine the effects of chronic and high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, on neurons - the fundamental components of the brain. This research demonstrated the harmful effects of chronic cortisol exposure on early stages of brain development by disrupting stress-associated functions in neurons.
Additionally, this thesis shed light on ethical dilemmas surrounding innovative technologies like brain organoids and biomarkers. While these advancements show promise, they also raise concerns regarding their use and implications in military contexts, for instance by examining vulnerability for development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This work emphasizes the importance of considering the ethical implications in stress research and clinical practices. By understanding the complex interplay between stress mechanisms, vulnerability to disorders, and ethical challenges, this thesis serves as a steppingstone towards responsible and impactful advancements in stress-related fields.
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