HCEO recently interviewed IP network member Turhan Canli about his new project, The Mind/Brain Center on War and Humanity, at Stony Brook University. 

Canli's main research interests are in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology. "Over the years I've become probably best known for my brain-imaging work on personality traits and on gene environment interactions," Canli says. His new work at The Mind/Brain Center combines these research interests. 

"What I'm really excited about is taking all of that work and moving it into a domain of the big questions of our time," he says. "The questions that I'm interested in, that are related to war, have to do with individual differences in how people respond to and process war-related experiences."

These questions focus on three groups of people: war veterans, refugees, and former child soldiers. "These are very distinct groups," he says. "But they all share kind of a common experience of war-related traumas."

So how can we study the range of individidual differences of how people process war trauma? "I think we can look at it through a lens of integrating across all levels of analysis," Canli says, from family history to social environment and more. "How come some people are capable of great acts of empathy or forgiveness in the face of personal tragedy and injustice, when many others are not?" he asks. "Those are the people we often call peacemakers."

This research is particularly timely. As noted in our October Research Spotlight, there were more than 65 million forcibly displaced people by the end of 2015. The Mind/Brain Center seeks to understand the neural basis of "individual differences in mental health vulnerability and resilience following war trauma."

"This is obviously a huge task," Canli says. The work involves a wide network of people, from scientists and educators to those with lived experience. "That's my passion from now on. I have a feeling this will be plenty of work to fill the rest of my professional and personal life."
Canli is Associate Professor of Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He also directs The Mind/Brain Center, the Graduate Program in Genetics, and SCAN (Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience) Center, all at Stony Brook.