Psychoneuroimmunology is a study that investigates the interaction between human emotions and the immune system, which is mediated by the endocrine and nervous systems. The nervous and immune systems maintain extensive communication, including communication to lymphoid organs from deep-rooted sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. Genetic factors are responsible for individual variation in emotional reactivity, and neuroendocrine stress responses were shown by earlier studies in humans. Several gene-environment studies have shown that long-term effects of stress are being moderated by genetic variations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. There is a large interindividual variability of HPA axis stress reactivity on variants of the glucocorticoid (GR) or mineralocorticoid receptor genes, and it documents a sex-specific association between different GR gene polymorphisms and salivary cortisol responses to acute psychosocial stress. In conclusion, many kinds of mind-body behavioral interventions are effective in improving mood, quality of life, reducing stress, and anxiety, thereby altering neuroendocrine and immune functions, and ultimately altering the genetic aberrations. However, the question remains as to whether these latter effects are sufficiently large or last long enough to contribute to health benefits, or if they are even relevant to the development of a disease.
Part of the book: Immunogenetics