Psychoneuroimmunology – the interrelationships between emotions, neurologic function, and the immune system. In the 1970s researchers discovered receptors for neuropeptides on cells throughout the body, including the immune system.
The brain produces neuropeptides, protein-based structures that convey biochemical messages related to cognition (thought and logic) and emotion. Neuropeptides include endorphins and enkephalins, substances connected to perceptions of satiety and pleasure.
Though researchers do not yet understand how neuropeptides affect immune response, they do know emotional stress affects physical health. They also know that the immune system affects neurologic functions, which is one reason people feel irritable and cranky when they are sick.
It appears that the primary messengers for immuneto-neural communication are the cytokines immune cells produce during the immune response, notably interleukins, which are capable of activating nerve impulses that convey signals to the brain. Researchers continue to explore ways to use these connections for health, healing, and disease prevention.
See also MIND-BODY CONNECTION.
Page last reviewed: