Brain Study Shows How
Emotions Affect Immunity

By Roger Highfield
Science Editor
The Telegraph - UK

Sad, fearful and angry thoughts can weaken the body's protective immune system and make it more vulnerable to disease, according to a brain scanner study published today.
Researchers have long known that a link exists between psychological states and immune response, notably between depression and vulnerability to a wide range of diseases. However, the mechanism behind this link is poorly understood.
Now a direct connection between brain activity and immune function has been demonstrated in an experiment by a team at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
A paper by the team in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today pinpoints one of the mechanisms underlying the link, revealing it to lie in the brain's prefrontal cortex. This region has long been associated with emotions, as well as planning and awareness.
Dr Richard Davidson and colleagues asked 52 female subjects to recount either the best or worst times of their lives by thinking and then writing about these subjects.
As the subjects wrote, the researchers measured physiological indicators of emotional reactions and used electroencephalograph recordings to measure electrical activity in the brain.
Each participant was then given a flu shot, and flu antibody levels were measured at intervals in the six months afterwards. Those subjects who exhibited more intense negative emotions while recounting negative experiences produced a weaker response to the vaccine, suggesting they had impaired immunity.
While earlier studies had linked emotional and physical health, as well as brain activity and emotion, Dr Davidson said none had established a direct link between brain activity and immune function.
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