Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study shows brain activity influences immune function

02.09.2003


Staying healthy may involve more than washing hands or keeping a positive attitude. According to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it also may involve a particular pattern of brain activity.



By monitoring activity levels in the human brain’s prefrontal cortex, the researchers demonstrate for the first time that people who have more activity in the left side of this area also have a stronger immune response against disease. The findings, soon to be published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pinpoint one of the mechanisms underlying the link between mental and physical well-being.

Numerous scientific studies show that keeping a positive attitude can keep a person healthy, says Richard Davidson, a UW-Madison neuroscientist and senior author of the paper. But he adds that the reasons why this connection exists are poorly understood.


By turning to the brain - an organ that sends signals that guide emotional response - Davidson and his group have identified one possible explanation: activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain long associated with affective style, or how a person responds emotionally to an event.

"Emotions play an important role in modulating bodily systems that influence our health," says Davidson. "We turned to the brain to understand the mechanisms by which the mind influences the body."

While earlier studies have linked emotional and physical health, as well as brain activity and affective style, Davidson says none have established a direct link between brain activity and immune function.

The latest study by the UW-Madison group demonstrates this connection.

For the study, the researchers worked with 52 individuals between the ages of 57 and 60 who were recruited from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study - a long-term study of more than 10,000 people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. Specifically, the scientists wanted to know if people who showed more activity in the left side of the prefrontal cortex - a part of the brain associated with positive emotional responses - also showed greater immunity to the influenza virus after vaccination.

To answer this question, the researchers vaccinated all the subjects against the flu virus. Before vaccination, they measured the study participants’ brain activity, both at a baseline state and during emotion eliciting memory tasks. During these tasks, the participants were asked to recall two events - one that made them feel intensely happy and another that left them feeling intensely sad, fearful or angry. As the respondents focused on the emotion experienced for one minute, the researchers measured the electrical activity in both the right and left sides of the prefrontal cortex.

Previous studies, notes Davidson, have shown that individuals with greater activity on the right side of this brain region tend to have a more negative affective style, which can cause these individuals to respond inappropriately to emotional events.

The researchers collected these prefrontal cortex activity levels again after the subjects spent five minutes writing about the particular events. At this time, they also measured the participants’ eyeblink reflex in response to sudden noises. This measure, explains Davidson, provides a convenient and objective way to measure how negatively or positively a person reacts to a stimulus.

Three times in the six months following vaccination, the researchers collected serum samples from each subject to track the number of flu-fighting antibodies in the blood, which can determine immune function.

Six months after being vaccinated against the flu virus, the subjects who had greater activity in the left side of the prefrontal cortex, instead of the right side, also had a greater rise in the number of antibodies for influenza, says Davidson.

"This study establishes that people with a pattern of brain activity that has been associated with a positive affective style are also the ones to show the best response to the flu vaccine," says the Wisconsin researcher. "It begins to suggest a mechanism for why subjects with a more positive emotional disposition may be healthier."

This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Mind-Body Interaction.

Emily Carlson, 608-262-9772, emilycarlson@wisc.edu


Richard Davidson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>