Stress and Psychiatric Disorders: The Role of Mitochondria

Author: Teresa E Daniels1,2, Elizabeth M Olsen1,2, Audrey R Tyrka1,2
1 Mood Disorders Research Program and Laboratory for Clinical and Translational Neuroscience, Butler Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island 02906, USA; email:,,
2 Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.
Conference/Journal: Annu Rev Clin Psychol
Date published: 2020 May 7
Other: Volume ID: 16 , Pages: 165-186 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-082719-104030. , Word Count: 164

In seeking to understand mental health and disease, it is fundamental to identify the biological substrates that draw together the experiences and physiological processes that underlie observed psychological changes. Mitochondria are subcellular organelles best known for their central role in energetics, producing adenosine triphosphate to power most cellular processes. Converging lines of evidence indicate that mitochondria play a key role in the biological embedding of adversity. Preclinical research documents the effects of stress exposure on mitochondrial structure and function, and recent human research suggests alterations constituting recalibrations, both adaptive and nonadaptive. Current research suggests dynamic relationships among stress exposure, neuroendocrine signaling, inflammation, and mitochondrial function. These complex relationships are implicated in disease risk, and their elucidation may inform prevention and treatment of stress- and trauma-related disorders. We review and evaluate the evidence for mitochondrial dysfunction as a consequence of stress exposure and as a contributing factor to psychiatric disease.

Keywords: allostatic load; early life adversity; mitochondria; psychosocial stress.

PMID: 32092280 PMCID: PMC8007172 DOI: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-082719-104030