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Immune system

Immune system domain

Immune system domain

Figure 5 Coherence among neural, immune and psychosocial domains. Psychosocial processes (such as the perception of stress), acting through the neuroimmune network, clearly have the potential to modulate immune responsiveness. Conversely, immune activity influences how we think, feel and act. Thus, these three integrative systems - immune, neural and psychosocial - are coherently coordinated into the self-determination process of an individual.

Figure 5 Coherence among neural, immune and psychosocial domains. Psychosocial processes (such as the perception of stress), acting through the neuroimmune network, clearly have the potential to modulate immune responsiveness. Conversely, immune activity influences how we think, feel and act. Thus, these three integrative systems - immune, neural and psychosocial - are coherently coordinated into the self-determination process of an individual.

catecholamine release but relatively little activation of the pituitary and adrenal glands and their hormones. Another might produce the opposite pattern. In addition, emotions, thoughts, personality, coping processes and other psychological and social variables will modulate autonomic and hormonal consequences of exposure to stressors and in turn the immune consequences.

Conversely, immune system-derived information acting on the nervous system, during the course of an infection for instance, could also be responsible for triggering changes in behavior patterns similar to stress-associated behaviors. For example, animals exposed to stimuli which arouse fear or anxiety reduce social interactions, curiosity, food and water ingestion and sexual activity. Administration of IL-1 or substances that stimulate macrophages to secrete IL-1 produce very similar behavior changes.

All this suggests that the immune system may truly act as a sensory organ, conveying to the brain information about antigens through lymphocyte-derived hormones, while at the same time being modulated by neural factors (stress related or otherwise). As illustrated in Figure 5, therefore, the immune, neural and psychosocial domains are coordinated as coherent self-generative processes within an individual's life such that it is the context, interpretation and meaning of stress for the individual that determines its immune effects.

See also: Cytokines; Glucocorticoids; Neuroendocrine regulation of immunity; Stress proteins.

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