October 20, 2014
Science Daily/Mount Sinai Medical Center
Preexisting differences in the sensitivity of a key part of each individual’s immune system to stress confer a greater risk of developing stress-related depression or anxiety, scientists report. Inflammation is the immune system's response to infection or disease, and has long been linked to stress.
Inflammation is the immune system's response to infection or disease, and has long been linked to stress. Previous studies have found depression and anxiety to be associated with elevated blood levels of inflammatory molecules and white blood cells after a confirmed diagnosis, but it has been unclear whether greater inflammation was present prior to the onset of disease or whether it is functionally related to depression symptomology.
The new study provides experimental evidence that the emotional response to stress can be generated or blocked in the periphery, offering the potential for new forms of treatment for stress disorders and may eventually inform therapeutic strategies to reengineer a patient's immune system to reduce stress vulnerability. Given that stress disorders and inflammation are together associated with increased prevalence of many other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and stroke that are highly comorbid with emotional disturbances, these findings may provide insight into common pathways governing multiple diseases.