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March 10, 1993

Perturbing the Organism: The Biology of Stressful Experience

JAMA. 1993;269(10):1315. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500100115046

"Stress" is a term everyone knows but no one can adequately define. "Stressful experience" is Herbert Weiner's very well-reasoned attempt to rename "stress" by emphasizing that it is an active process involving individual differences in the perception of, and behavioral and physiological response to, the challenges, in the Darwinian sense, of being alive.

In this scholarly, readable, and generally very useful book, Weiner recounts the history of the concept of stress; defines what he means by "stressful experience"; and relates it to ill health and disease. He summarizes the experimental study of stressful experience through research on animals and describes in some detail advances in neuroscience and neuroendocrinology that have begun to elucidate some of the mediators of stressful experience in the brain and body, as well as the cellular mechanisms of their action. In a concluding chapter he summarizes new concepts derived from the study of mechanisms that illuminate