Links for Keyword: Neuroimmunology
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Low levels of social connectedness can adversely affect the body - lowering immune response and affecting heart health - highlight two new studies. One study demonstrates that first-year college students who mixed with fewer people or felt lonely had a lower immune response to influenza vaccination than their more gregarious or socially contented classmates. A second study suggests that men who are socially isolated have elevated levels of a blood marker for inflammation, which has a role in atherosclerosis. It was known that isolation has detrimental effects on heart health, but the study gives clues as to how this is mediated, says Sarah Pressman, a health psychologist a Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, US. Pressman and colleagues found small social networks and loneliness lowered the antibody response of students to the flu jab. But surprisingly, the effects were independent of one another. “Loneliness is the perception of being alone,” she explains, whereas social networks can be counted objectively as the number of people with whom a person has contact. “You can have very few friends but still not feel lonely. Alternatively, you can have many friends yet feel lonely,” says Pressman. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Gisela Telis Social bees have surprisingly strong body armor against microbes, researchers have found. And the more gregarious the bees--the larger their colonies and the more closely related--the better they are at beating disease. The discovery is the first clear link between the evolution of immune systems and social behavior, and it dangles a new hope for bioprospectors on the trail of the next generation of antibiotics. Insects, like humans, face greater risks of catching and spreading infectious diseases when they're crowded together. Scientists have long suspected that bees and other bugs combat the added risk that being social incurs by evolving stronger disease defenses, such as secreting antimicrobial agents to cover their bodies. The theory is that bigger colonies with more crowded conditions would require insects to evolve better immune defenses, which in turn enable the insects to evolve still-bigger colonies. To test the idea, biologists Adam Stow, Andrew Beattie, and their colleagues at Macquarie University in New South Wales and the South Australian Museum in Adelaide collected bees from across the social spectrum: blue-banded bees and teddy bear bees, which are solitary and live in their own nests without partners or workers; semisocial reed bees that partner with their sisters and their offspring in small colonies; and Australian native honey bees, which form large colonies of closely related individuals with sophisticated divisions of labor. The scientists then washed the protective coatings from the bees' bodies and applied the resulting solution to the notorious Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacterium. © 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Bruce Bower People with generally positive outlooks show greater resistance to developing colds than do individuals who rarely revel in upbeat feelings, a new investigation finds. Frequently basking in positive emotions defends against colds regardless of how often one experiences negative emotions, say psychologist Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and his colleagues. They suspect that positive emotions stimulate symptom-fighting substances. "We need to take more seriously the possibility that a positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk," Cohen says. In a study published in 2003, his group exposed 334 healthy adults to one of two rhinoviruses via nasal drops. Those who displayed generally positive outlooks, including feelings of liveliness, cheerfulness, and being at ease, were least likely to develop cold symptoms. Unlike the negatively inclined participants, they reported fewer cold symptoms than were detected in medical exams. The new study, which appears in the November/December Psychosomatic Medicine, replicates those results and rules out the possibility that psychological traits related to a positive emotional style, rather than the emotions themselves, guard against cold symptoms. Those traits include high self-esteem, extroversion, optimism, and a feeling of mastery over one's life. ©2006 Science Service.
By Jocelyn Kaiser Nobody likes coming down with a fever, but feeling hot may do a body good. Researchers report online 5 November in Nature Immunology that a fever in mice revs up the immune response by helping white blood cells enter lymph nodes, where they join the battle against microbial invaders. All mammals can develop fever when they're sick enough, and even cold-blooded animals with infections, such as fish and lizards, will seek warmth to raise their body temperatures. This suggests that fever somehow helps the body conquer the bugs. Immunologist Sharon Evans of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, and coworkers are studying how fever affects the movement of white blood cells, or lymphocytes, from the blood into lymphoid tissue, where they learn to recognize and fight pathogens. Lymphocytes constantly circulate through blood vessels within lymph nodes and other lymphoid organs, but only some actually enter lymphoid tissue by crossing the walls of the vessels, known as high endothelial venules (HEVs). Fever increases blood flow, which means more lymphocytes flow through lymphoid tissues. Evans' team had previously shown that fever also assists the passage of lymphocytes into lymphoid tissue, but they hadn't figured out what was happening on a molecular level. © 2006 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Related chapters from BP6e: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of Internal States; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 9594 - Posted: 06.24.2010
Helen Pearson A messy birth could be good for the baby's digestion. So say researchers in Germany, who have found evidence that baby mice squeezing through the birth canal swallow bacterial molecules that help their gut grow healthily. The finding suggests that kids born by caesarean might miss out. Swarms of friendly bacteria normally live in our guts, and cells lining the intestinal tubes do not attack them. Mathias Hornef at the University Clinic of Freiburg, Germany, and his colleagues, have found that, in mice at least, these intestinal cells 'learn' not to harm the bugs sometime around birth. The team extracted intestinal cells from mice embryos before birth and exposed them to a component of bacteria. The embryonic cells reacted and produced inflammatory molecules. But the same gut cells from one-day-old newborn mice or adult mice did not. Somehow, the cells in the more developed mice had learned to ignore the bacterial trigger. The researchers think that bacterial scraps naturally slopping around in the birth canal and mother's faeces are swallowed by the baby mice as they make their entry into the world. These molecules pass down into the gut, where they stimulate the gut cells; a single exposure is enough to teach the cells to tolerate friendly bugs in the future. ©2006 Nature Publishing Group
Praying for someone might give you hope, but it won't help them recover from heart surgery. It may even harm them. That's the surprising result from a multi-year clinical trial on the therapeutic effects of prayer. Herbert Benson and Jeffery Dusek of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and their colleagues followed the fates of 1802 patients undergoing coronary bypass operations. Several Christian prayer groups prayed for one set of patients, while another did not receive any prayers. Although all these patients knew they were in the trial, neither they nor their doctors knew which of the groups they were in. The prayers made no detectable difference. In the first month after surgery, 52 per cent of prayed-for patients and 51 per cent of non-prayed-for patients suffered one or more complications, the researchers found (American Heart Journal, vol 151, p 934). A third group of patients received the same prayers as the first group, but were told they were being prayed for. Of these, 59 per cent suffered complications - significantly more than the patients left unsure of whether they were receiving prayers. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd
By JR Minkel In 2002 a clinical trial of an experimental Alzheimer's vaccine was halted when a few patients began experiencing brain inflammation, a result of the immune system mounting an attack against the body. Now some researchers claim that inducing a mild autoimmune reaction could actually protect the central nervous system from a spectrum of neurodegenerative conditions, from glaucoma and spinal cord injury to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. "This is a hot-button issue right now," says Howard Gendelman of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. It all started with glaucoma. Once thought to result primarily from high pressure in the eyeball constricting the optic nerve, the disease has lately come to be seen as a form of neurodegeneration, propagating from the injured optic nerve to healthy cells in the brain. Before monkey studies had demonstrated as much, neuroimmunologist Michal Schwartz of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, observed in the late 1990s that crushing a small portion of a rat optic nerve creates a large zone of sickened cells. She and her team also found that T cells, the immune system's attackers, gathered at these wounds. © 1996-2006 Scientific American, Inc.
Related chapters from BP6e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 8368 - Posted: 06.24.2010
By David Kohn Blanche Cardarelli is a very friendly person. Almost every day, she spends at least a few hours hanging out with one group of people or another. She belongs to seven social clubs and, by her count, has dozens of friends. "I like people. I like being around people," says Cardarelli, a former homemaker who lives in the Middleborough section of Essex. "You can either sit home and watch TV or you can go out." Cardarelli, a widow who is in her early 70s ("I don't give my age away because that keeps my boyfriends around," she jokes), has a good chance of living for many more years, at least according to a study of almost 1,500 people aged 70 and older. The research, which appears in the July issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that people who had more friends and who spent more time with them tended to live longer. Intriguingly, the researchers found that spending time with family did not seem to lengthen life. The study followed subjects for 10 years. The most interactive group, people who had five or more close friends and talked with them regularly, were 22 percent less likely to die than those who were least connected - no close friends and few social contacts of any kind. Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun
Roxanne Khamsi People itching for a solution to seasonal allergies could get help from self-hypnosis, a team of Swiss researchers suggests. The study finds that simply focusing one's thoughts on allergen-free environments can reduce symptoms of hay fever by one-third. Although the arrival of spring brings better weather, it also triggers the release of plant pollens that cause allergies. Hay fever affects about 10-15% of adults in industrialized nations. To treat this, people turn to medications such as antihistamines, decongestants and sometimes steroids. But these can cause side-effects such as drowsiness, a dry mouth and raised blood pressure. Allergy sufferers have sought alternatives approaches, including psychotherapy-related methods, to ease their itchy eyes and runny noses. Wolf Langewitz of the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland, and his colleagues sought to find out how well self-hypnosis works. The team recruited 79 patients with moderate to severe allergic reactions to grass or tree pollen, who then received training on self-hypnosis. To achieve successful results using self-hypnosis, says Langewitz, one must first enter a trance-like state and then focus the mind on a particular theme. The whole process, he adds, can take as little as five minutes. ©2005 Nature Publishing Group
Friends, not family, are the key to a longer life, a new study suggests. While previous research has found that strong social networks help older people live longer, the work had not distinguished between contact with friends or relatives. The new study followed almost 1500 Australians, initially aged over 70. Those who at the start reported regular close personal or phone contact with five or more friends were 22% less likely to die in the next decade than those who had reported fewer, more-distant friends. But the presence or absence of close ties with children or other relatives had no impact on survival. The reasons are not entirely clear. Friends and confidantes might help with coping in times of stress and difficulty, the team suggests. They might also encourage healthy behaviours, such as seeking help for new medical symptoms. Journal reference: Journal of Epidemiological and Community Health (vol 59, p 538) © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Rest assured, the cells that guard your brain are no slackers. New movies of brain cells called microglia reveal that these sentries constantly extend and retract tiny arms to probe the fluid spaces between brain cells for signs of injury or infection. The findings present a radically new view of how these cells protect the brain. Microglia are the immune system's foot soldiers in the brain. They spring into action when damage occurs, creating a protective barrier around the injury and cleaning up dead cells and other debris. What the microglia do between crises has been unclear, largely because getting the cells under a microscope has required excising a chunk of brain tissue--thereby causing damage that sends the cells into emergency response mode. The new study gets around that obstacle by using genetically engineered mice whose microglia produce a fluorescent green protein. The research team, led by Axel Nimmerjahn at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany, created a window on the brain of 12 such mice by shaving away a small patch of skull until only a transparent sliver of bone remained. Using a noninvasive technique called two-photon microscopy, the team snapped pictures of glowing microglia near the surface of the brain for several hours and compiled the images into time-lapse movies. Copyright © 2005 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
By Rob Stein, Washington Post Staff Writer According to the Bible, "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Now, modern science may be validating that Old Testament proverb -- a good laugh may actually help fend off heart attacks and strokes. "We believe laughing is good for your health," said Michael Miller of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, who led the research. "And we think we have evidence to show why that's the case." A growing body of other evidence has suggested that negative emotions, particularly depression and stress, can be harmful, making people more prone to illness, more likely to experience suffering from their ailments and less likely to recover as quickly, or at all. One recent study even found sudden emotional shock can trigger life-threatening heart symptoms that many doctors mistake for a classic heart attack. Miller himself, along with his colleagues, had done a study that found people who have a negative reaction to social situations tend to be more prone to heart disease. But far less has been done to examine whether positive emotions can reduce the risk and complications of illness. © 2005 The Washington Post Company
A BIG brain is a sign of a healthy immune system, at least as far as male birds are concerned. Anders Møller at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France, and colleagues examined data from 127 bird species. They found that in species with larger brains for their body size, such as yellowhammers and barn swallows, the males also tended to have a larger spleen and bursa of Fabricius - two organs central to the immune system. The pattern did not hold for organs like the heart and liver not involved the immune system, or for females (Journal of Evolutionary Biology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2004.00805.x). Møller says that females choosing brainy males, perhaps by favouring a large song repertoire, may also be selecting for males with better immune systems. Previous research has shown that infections impair a bird's cognitive abilities, so a male displaying his braininess may also be showing off good genes for seeing off parasites. What's more the pattern may exist in other animals. "I can't see any reason why it should be restricted to birds," Møller says. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Related chapters from BP6e: Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 6668 - Posted: 06.24.2010
Fatigue is in the mind, not the muscles, suggests a new study. But it can still have a serious impact on athletic performance. The finding could lead to treatments for conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, or the development of illicit performance-enhancing drugs. Traditionally, fatigue was viewed as the result of over-worked muscles ceasing to function properly. But evidence is mounting that our brains make us feel weary after exercise (New Scientist print edition, 20 March). The idea is that the brain steps in to prevent muscle damage. Now Paula Robson-Ansley and her colleagues at the University of Cape Town in South Africa have demonstrated that a ubiquitous body signalling molecule called interleukin-6 plays a key role in telling the brain when to slow us down. Blood levels of IL-6 are 60 to 100 times higher than normal following prolonged exercise, and injecting healthy people with IL-6 makes them feel tired. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Bruce Bower The old saying that it's better to give than to receive may be true, at least when it comes to social support. Over a 5-year period, seniors who provided either a lot of practical assistance to friends, relatives, and neighbors or regular emotional support to their spouses displayed a higher survival rate than those who didn't provide such help, a new study finds. New data suggest that older people who provide social support to spouses, friends, and others live longer than other seniors do. In contrast, recipients of plentiful social support showed death rates similar to those of their peers who got little or no such support, say psychologist Stephanie L. Brown of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her colleagues. Copyright ©2003 Science Service.
-- An increasing number of doctors and other health experts have been encouraging older adults to rise from their recliners and go for a walk, a bike ride, a swim, or engage in just about any other form of physical activity as a defense against the potentially harmful health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. "Exercise is touted as a panacea for older adults," said Jeffrey Woods, a kinesiology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who noted that fitness programs are routinely recommended for people with various health problems -- from diabetes to heart disease. Health experts generally recognize that this population benefits from physical fitness, he said. What they don't know is why exercise appears to have certain preventive and restorative health effects. Also unknown is what -- if any -- relationship exists between exercise and immune functioning. Copyright © 1992-2003 Bio Online, Inc.
Researchers want to understand the control center of the activation process | By Josh P. Roberts We can do things that haven't been done before, I think, ever in cell biology," exclaims Mark Davis of Stanford University. His 3-D, fluorescence video-microscopy system allows him to count the number of antigen receptors being stimulated on a given T cell, and to follow that cell through time. Davis asks of the single cell, "What do you need in the way of signals to get synapses? And what is the sensitivity of a T cell to antigen?" The synapse Davis refers to is the immunological synapse, where T cells receive their marching orders; understanding it is vital to appreciating how an immune response is set in motion. "We like to think of the immunological synapse as the brain," says cell biologist Abraham (Avi) Kupfer. "It's like a control center of the activation process." SIMPLICITY ITSELF In its simplest incarnation, the immunological synapse (IS) consists of two pairs of molecules. Michael Dustin and colleagues at Washington University put freely diffusible MHC-peptide (major histocompatability complex class II plus bound peptide) with ICAM-1 (intracellular adhesion molecule-1) into an artificial lipid bilayer. By adding T cells, the researchers induced T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) and lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) to form "kind of a bull's-eye-like pattern," he recalls. ©2003, The Scientist Inc.
May Increase Susceptibility To Inflammatory Diseases Such As Allergic, Autoimmune Or Cardiovascular Diseases WASHINGTON - Chronic stress not only makes people more vulnerable to catching illnesses but can also impair their immune system's ability to respond to its own anti-inflammatory signals that are triggered by certain hormones, say researchers, possibly altering the course of an inflammatory disease. This finding is reported on in the November issue of Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Chronic stress seems to impair the immune system's capacity to respond to glucocorticoid hormones that normally are responsible for terminating an inflammatory response following infection and/or injury, according to researchers Gregory E. Miller, Ph.D., of Washington University at St. Louis and colleagues. To examine what happens to people's immune systems during on-going stressful situations, the researchers compared 25 healthy parents with children undergoing treatment for pediatric cancer with 25 healthy parents with healthy children on measures of mental health, effects of social support and certain immune system responses. All the parents had blood drawn at the initial session and salivary cortisol samples taken at intermittent times over two days. © PsycNET 2002 American Psychological Association
By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Optimists live longer, healthier lives than pessimists, U.S. researchers said on Thursday in a study that may give pessimists one more reason to grumble. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh looked at rates of death and chronic health conditions among participants of the Women's Health Initiative study, which has followed more than 100,000 women ages 50 and over since 1994. Women who were optimistic -- those who expect good rather than bad things to happen -- were 14 percent less likely to die from any cause than pessimists and 30 percent less likely to die from heart disease after eight years of follow up in the study. Optimists also were also less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or smoke cigarettes. The team, led Dr. Hilary Tindle, also looked at women who were highly mistrustful of other people -- a group they called "cynically hostile" -- and compared them with women who were more trusting. Women in the cynically hostile group tended to agree with questions such as: "I've often had to take orders from someone who didn't know as much as I did" or "It's safest to trust nobody," Tindle said in a telephone interview. "These questions prove a general mistrust of people," said Tindle, who presented her study Thursday at the American Psychosomatic Society's annual meeting in Chicago.
The power of the mind has been overestimated when it comes to fighting cancer, US scientists say. They said they found that a patient's positive or negative emotional state had no direct bearing on cancer survival or disease progression. The University of Pennsylvania team followed more than 1,000 patients with head and neck cancer. But experts said the Cancer journal study should not deter people from adopting a "fighting spirit". Indeed, a positive outlook can help patients cope with gruelling cancer therapies and resume a "normal" life, a spokeswoman for Macmillan Cancer Support said. Seeking emotional support may be beneficial to cancer patients, said the researchers. Lead author Dr James Coyne said: "If cancer patients want psychotherapy or to be in a support group, they should be given the opportunity. There can be lots of emotional and social benefits. But they should not seek such experiences solely on the expectation that they are extending their lives. The hope that we can fight cancer by influencing emotional states appears to have been misplaced." In the study, a patient's emotional status had no bearing on survival, regardless of gender, tumour site or disease stage. Julia Frater, of Cancer Research UK, said: "People with cancer can feel under pressure to cope well with their disease and treatment and to stay on top of things. They are often urged to feel positive. "These results should reassure them that if they don't feel like this, it's okay. Many people do feel worried or low following a diagnosis and this isn't likely to affect the outcome of their treatment." (C)BBC