It's Not Just in Your Mind

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Science  30 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5744, pp. 2138
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5744.2138b

The links between psychology and immunology have, for the most part, either been dismissed as a collection of anecdotes or avoided as being too nebulous to study in a controlled fashion. The consequences have been a persistent interest in folk science and a dearth of solid mechanistic evidence.

Rosenkranz et al.have brought modern neuroimaging techniques to bear on this problem and identify neural substrates where the state of the body makes itself known to the mind. Six asthmatic patients were challenged with allergens (cat dander and dust mites), and the subsequent development of early-phase (mast cell degranulation) and late-phase (T cell cytokine release) airway constriction was measured by forced expiratory volume and sampling of sputum and blood after 1 and 4 hours, respectively. Concurrently, the neural responses to asthma-related words were assessed by brain scans. Under these conditions, activity (specifically associated with words such as wheeze) in the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex correlated with the extent of late-phase allergic inflammation, suggesting that physiological stress can influence the cognitive processing of emotionally potent stimuli. — GJC

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 102, 13319 (2005).

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