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Nation's top experts in psychoneuroimmunology to gather Sept 18-21 in Tampa, Fla.
Date:9/8/2008

hat we need to consider." said Nick Hall, PhD, director of the USF College of Nursing Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, one of few PNI research centers in the country housed within a nursing school. "But this conference will bring together the country's top PNI experts in one spot to answer tough questions. Many of the speakers are funded by the National Institutes of Health, and we all share a passion for scientific validity."

PNI is a wide-ranging field studying the relationships among the mind (psyche), the brain (neuro) and the immune system (immunology) and what all that has to do with your health and susceptibility to disease. "In the early days when the term 'psychoneuroimmunology' was coined, the bias was that the brain controls everything that information flows in the direction of gravity, from the nervous system down to the rest of the body," Dr. Hall said.

When researchers found that depressed people were more prone to infections, they assumed the brain must be triggering a stress hormone to tamp down the immune system. But, Dr. Hall said, the evolutionary advantage for suppressing the immune function of a depressed person with slowed reflexes -- already lacking energy and motivation was questionable. Making the depressed individual more susceptible to viruses and bacteria didn't seem to make sense. Scientists eventually suspected that symptoms of depression may sometimes be triggered by the immune system sending the body a message to slow down so it can rest and restore energy, he added. But, what would happen if that message didn't get turned off?

"We now know that some forms of depression may actually be triggered by too much immunity, rather than weakened immunity," Dr. Hall said. "Something happens to make the immune system keep going on and on, without any restraints, rather like the Energizer Bunny."

The USF conference's keynote speaker is Peter Bourne, MD, a former health advisor to President Jimmy Carter,
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Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
abaier@health.usf.edu
813-974-3300
University of South Florida Health
Source:Eurekalert

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