Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Psychoneuroimmunology: An Introduction to Immune-to-Brain Communication and Its Implications for Clinical Psychology

Julienne E. Bower and Kate R. Kuhlman
Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 2023 19:1, 331-359


Research conducted over the past several decades has revolutionized our understanding of the role of the immune system in neural and psychological development and function across the life span. Our goal in this review is to introduce this dynamic area of research to a psychological audience and highlight its relevance for clinical psychology. We begin by introducing the basic physiology of immune-to-brain signaling and the neuroimmune network, focusing on inflammation. Drawing from preclinical and clinical research, we then examine effects of immune activation on key psychological domains, including positive and negative valence systems, social processes, cognition, and arousal (fatigue, sleep), as well as links with psychological disorders (depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia). We also consider psychosocial stress as a critical modulator of neuroimmune activity and focus on early life adversity. Finally, we highlight psychosocial and mind–body interventions that influence the immune system and may promote neuroimmune resilience.

Here is a summary:

This research delves into the fascinating field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), exploring the intricate communication pathways between the brain, behavior, and immune system. It sheds light on how our mental and emotional states can influence our immune response, and vice versa, with profound implications for clinical psychology.

Key Insights:
  • Immune-to-brain communication: Inflammation, a crucial immune response, plays a central role in this dialogue. Immune cells release signaling molecules that reach the brain, impacting mood, cognition, and behavior.
  • Psychosocial stress and immunity: Stress acts as a potent modulator, amplifying inflammation and potentially leading to various physical and mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and even some neurodegenerative disorders.
  • Early life adversity and resilience: Early life experiences can leave lasting impressions on the neuroimmune system, influencing vulnerability or resilience to stress and disease later in life.
  • Implications for clinical psychology: Understanding PNI opens new avenues for intervention. Therapies targeting stress management, mindfulness, and social support could bolster neuroimmune resilience and improve mental health outcomes.
Future Directions:
  • Deciphering the complex mechanisms of immune-to-brain communication, particularly the role of specific molecules and brain regions.
  • Developing PNI-informed interventions for diverse clinical conditions, tailored to individual needs and vulnerabilities.
  • Integrating PNI knowledge into clinical training and practice to offer a more holistic understanding of mental health.