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What is Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)?
How does it relate to multiple sclerosis?

by Brett Curtis Weber, Ph.D.
Published January 2002

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, 1490, drawing, Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan


Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a newly emerging field of science that explores the complex relationships that exist between the mind (psyche), the brain and neuroendocrine system (neuro) and our body's cellular and biochemical response to foreign invasion, abnormal cell development and autoimmune disease (immunology). Within the last few decades scientists and physicians have gained a far greater appreciation for the profound influence our body's neuroendocrine system has on our immune system. Today it is recognized that the immune system and neuroendocrine system communicate with each other and that unfavorable changes within either system may compromise appropriate immune and inflammatory activity leaving the body more vulnerable to illness.

Today an increasing number of physicians are recognizing that emotional health has a large impact on immune function and may influence the course of disease and healing in either a positive or negative direction. For example strong feelings of hate, suppressed anger, depression and frustration over an extended period of time can produce harmful biochemical changes within the body and may set the stage for illness; just as feelings of love, laughter, tranquility and fulfillment can set the stage for healing.

I am investigating six topics within the field of psychoneuroimmunology that have been shown to reduce emotional stress, and may also lower physiological levels of the molecule Interferon beta-2 (IL-6):

1. Praying the Catholic Rosary, Mantra & Meditation,

2. Friendship, Forgiveness & Physiology,

3. Love, Laughter & Companionship,

4. The Healing Art of Creativity,

5. Touch, Yoga & Exercise,

6. The MS Therapy Dog.

I believe that elevated levels of Interferon beta-2 (IL-6) may accelerate disease progression in primary progressive MS (PPMS). Because there is no current proven effective treatment for PPMS, it is imperative that Interferon beta-2 (IL-6) suppression be considered by the scientific community as one possible treatment strategy. There is now strong scientific evidence that Interferon beta-2 (IL-6) and other inflammatory cytokines respond to acute mental stress in humans. In fact, blood sera concentrations of Interferon beta-2 (IL-6) have been shown to increase by some 56% in healthy individuals two hours after the onset of an acute stressful event (P<0.05) (Abstract Paper1 Paper2 - download Acrobat Reader). I have experienced that periods of highly charged emotional stress correlate with increased symptoms and disability caused by my PPMS. Consequently, reducing emotional stress may be crucial to effectively slowing disease progression and disability in people with my form of MS (Read: The MS Therapy Dog).


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