Thanks to a growing understanding of this process, scientists and clinicians increasingly are identifying individuals' risk factors and are teaching people - from high level executives to young children - simple coping behaviors that can successfully buffer the effect of stress on immune function and health.
The panel on "Alteration of Health by the Hormonal Response to Stress" is made up of members of the PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society. Chaired by Dr. Bruce S. Rabin, University of Pittsburgh, the symposium is part of the scientific sessions of The American Association of Immunologists, one of the six sponsoring societies of Experimental Biology 2004.
How does stress create damage? Dr. William B. Malarkey, Ohio State University, describes how the perception of stress activates the interface between the endocrine (or hormonal) system and the immune system, initiating a cascade of physiological events. If the perception of stress is short-term, these hormonal changes fade away. But if the stressful sensory input persists, the resulting dysregulation of the immune system initiates an inflammatory state that, if not stabilized, leads to symptoms and then established disease processes. Many of these stress-induced inflammatory immune responses are precursors to the chronic diseases of aging, says Dr. Malarkey.
As the immune system modifies in response to hormones produced by stress as perceived by the brain, it produces soluble factors that affect the brain itself. Dr. Andrew H. Miller, Emory University, de
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Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology