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STUDY: New Avoid: Negative Feelings
JOURNAL: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
ABSTRACT: Most people accept the idea that stress and depression chip away at the body's natural ability to fight off disease. But many medical scientists have remained skeptical that the mind can exert such a direct influence over the immune system.
COMMENTARY: In recent years, however, evidence has accumulated that psychology can indeed affect biology. Studies have found, for example, that people who suffer from depression are at higher risk for heart disease and other illnesses.
Other research has shown that wounds take longer to heal in women who care for patients with Alzheimer's disease than in other women who are not similarly stressed. And people under stress have been found to be more susceptible to colds and flu, and to have more severe symptoms after they fall ill.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin are reporting today that the activation of brain regions associated with negative emotions appears to weaken people's immune response to a flu vaccine.
During a task that required experiencing negative emotions, greater electrical activity in the brain's right prefrontal cortex predicted a weaker immune response six months later, as measured by the subjects' level of antibodies to the flu shot, the researchers found.
Greater activation in the left prefrontal cortex was associated with a stronger immune response.
The right prefrontal cortex are active during emotional responses involving anger, fear and sadness.
The left prefrontal cortex appears to be more active in association with positive emotions, like feeling enthusiastic and upbeat, according to the research.