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Letter From The Editor

Dr. Fatimah Jackson, Director, W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory

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Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. Writing about African American history, studying human biology, and interpreting the past are all activities that can contribute to our resilience as individuals and as a nation. We become vulnerable when we are unfamiliar with our past, when we cannot reconstruct the successes of our ancestors, when we cannot learn from their mistakes and misjudgments. Resilience is primarily a learned attribute. Stress stimulates resilience to subsequently stressful episodes, particularly when it is mild in magnitude and controllable by the individual (Ashokan et al 2016) Research on African American health and lifeways can provide a kind of “stress inoculation” by familiarizing us with what has occurred in the past and how it was responded to. This, in turn can facilitate our psychological adaptations, social connections, life meaning and planning, and ultimately physical wellness. Researching and writing about scientific aspects of the African Diasporas, particularly its transatlantic components, can begin to heal the longstanding wounds of that experience and its sequelae by changing the social context within which these historical facts are understood. The social context is the third pillar linking individual genetic susceptibility, a traumatogenic event, and the phenotypic expression of stress (see Auxéméry, 2012). 


This issue of The Backbone contains articles on various clinical conditions evident in the Cobb Collection as well as theoretical papers on aspects of human evolutionary biology. As a new feature of The Backbone, we feature a diverse set of short biohistories on specific individuals of the Cobb Collection. These were researched and reconstructed by Summer Medical and Dental Educational Program (SMDEP) student scholars during the summer 2015 research program held at the Cobb Research Laboratory (see Cobb Research Lab News 2(3) Summer 2015). This issue concludes with a flurry of recent abstracts on a range of scientific topics from the Cobb Research Laboratory. These abstracts include topics affiliated with our research on ancient human DNA and our historical studies of health disparities. The abstracts will be given as research papers on April 12, 2016 during a special symposium during Howard University’s Research Week 2016.*** 

Ashokan A, Sivasubramanian M, Mitra R. 2016 Seeding Stress Resilience through Inoculation. Neural Plast. 2016;2016:4928081. doi: 10.1155/2016/4928081. Epub 2016 Jan 5. Accessed February 10, 2016
Auxéméry Y. 2012 [Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of the interaction between an individual genetic susceptibility, a traumatogenic event and a social context]. Encephale. 2012 Oct;38(5):373-80. (in French) doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2011.12.003. Epub 2012 Jan 24. Accessed February 10, 2016.

Editorial Board

Fatimah L.C. Jackson, Ph.D. - Editor-In-Chief

Nicholas Guthrie - Production Editor


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In This Issue

Full Articles

Research Abstracts