Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift

, Volume 168, Issue 3–4, pp 76–84 | Cite as

Psychoneuroimmunology—developments in stress research

  • Rainer H Straub
  • Maurizio Cutolo
main topic


Links between the central nervous stress system and peripheral immune cells in lymphoid organs have been detailed through 50 years of intensive research. The brain can interfere with the immune system, where chronic psychological stress inhibits many functions of the immune system. On the other hand, chronic peripheral inflammation—whether mild (during aging and psychological stress) or severe (chronic inflammatory diseases)—clearly interferes with brain function, leading to disease sequelae like fatigue but also to overt psychiatric illness. In recent years, it has been observed that psychological stress can be disease permissive, as in chronic inflammatory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, acute and chronic viral infections, sepsis, asthma, and others. We recognized that stress reactivity is programmed for a lifetime during a critical period between fetal life and early childhood, which then influences stress behavior and stress responses in adulthood. First phase II clinical studies, e.g., on cognitive behavioral therapy and mind–body therapies (e. g., mindfulness-based stress reduction), are available that show some benefits in stressful human diseases such as breast cancer and others. The field of psychoneuroimmunology has reached a firm ground and invites therapeutic approaches based on Good Clinical Practice phase III multicenter randomized controlled trials to influence stress responses and outcome in chronic illness.


Stress research Brain Immune system Rheumatic disease Psychoneuroimmunology 


Conflict of interest

R.H. Straub and M. Cutolo declare that they have no competing interests.


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© Springer-Verlag Wien 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Experimental Rheumatology and Neuroendocrine Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine IUniversity Hospital RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  2. 2.Research Laboratories and Academic Division of Clinical Rheumatology, Postgraduate School of Rheumatology, Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of Genova, IRCCS San MartinoGenovaItaly

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