Despite some scientists' skepticism and funding shortages, the nascent field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is gaining greater acceptance in the mainstream medical world. PNI seeks to understand the complex communications among the brain and the immune system, and their implications for health.
Only within the past two decades have researchers begun to muster experimental evidence to figure it all out. Today, powerful new molecular techniques allow scientists to detail links between stress and disease immunity, pinpointing changes in hormone flow and immune system cells.
According to Margaret Kemeny, an associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral science at the University of California, Los Angeles, PNI research has exploded in the last decade. Recent work has demonstrated that hormones and neurotransmitters released under stress can change immune cell behavior. These various cells actually have receptors to "hear" the signals, allowing the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems to "talk."
At Ohio State University in...