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July 18, 1986

Can Mind Affect Body Defenses Against Disease? Nascent Specialty Offers a Host of Tantalizing Clues

JAMA. 1986;256(3):313-317. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380030015004

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PSYCHONEUROIMMUNOLOGY, the synthesis of data from psychiatry and immunology, provides an interesting perspective on human illness. Investigators hope that it also may uncover clues to the pathogenesis of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

"This field of behavioral immunology is one of the most exciting developments in recent years and promises to yield great insight into the relationships between psychological factors... and the disease process," says Steven F. Maier, PhD, professor and chair of experimental psychology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Maier and coworkers have performed animal experiments that suggest a link between stress and immune function and indicate the importance of the subject's sense of control in a stressful situation.

In one experiment, three groups of laboratory rats were given a series of inescapable electric shocks, escapable shocks, or no shocks, respectively (Science 1983;221:568-570). Lymphocyte proliferation, in response to phytohemagglutinin and concanavalin A (in vitro stimuli), was then measured. Those