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New research shows how chronic stress worsens neurodegenerative disease course
Date:8/17/2007

a pro-inflammatory environment that interferes with the immune response to infection. Because the early immune response shapes the later specific immune response to infection, impairment of the early response could account for the increased viral level, prolonged viral infection, increased CNS inflammation, and the subsequent exacerbation of the chronic autoimmune disease.

There is a growing body of evidence in both animal and human studies that suggests that exposure to stress can increase and sustain the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines following an assault on the immune system. Thus, the present findings might help scientists unravel which biobehavioral mechanisms offset the adverse health effects of chronic social stress in humans. Similar to mice exposed to repeated social defeat by an aggressive intruder, people exposed to chronic social conflict experience high levels of stress and consequent dysregulation of the immune system, thereby increasing vulnerability to infectious and autoimmune disease, said Meagher. The cytokine response during chronic stress appears to play a key role in exacerbating the acute CNS infection and the development of subsequent autoimmune responses.

Furthermore, interventions that prevented or reversed the stress-induced increases in IL-6 in the mouse model may have implications for humans, said Meagher. It is possible that the adverse effects of social conflict on people who are vulnerable to certain inflammatory diseases may be prevented or reversed by treatments aimed at blocking increases in this cytokine. Recent evidence suggests that some potential interventions include certain anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise, antidepressant medication, omega-3 fatty acids, and mindfulness relaxation training. However, human clinical trials are needed to fully evaluate this issue.


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Contact: Pam Willenz
pwillenz@apa.org
202-336-5707
American Psychological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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