Modulation of cellular immunity in medical students

Abstract

This study assessed the psychosocial modulation of cellular immunity in 34 medical-student volunteers. The first blood sample was obtained 1 month before examinations, and the second on the day of examinations. There were significant declines in the percentage of helper/inducer T- lymphocytes, in the helper/inducer-suppressor/cytotoxic-cell ratio, and in natural killer-cell activity in the blood samples obtained on the day of examinations. Half of the subjects were randomly assigned to a relaxation group which met between sample points; the frequency of relaxation practice was a significant predictor of the percentages of helper/inducer cells in the examination sample. Three biochemical nutritional assays (albumin, transferrin, and total iron-binding protein) were within normal limits on both samples. Data from the Brief Symptom Inventory showed significantly increased global self-rated distress associated with examinations in the no-intervention group, compared to nonsignificant change in the relaxation group. Clinical and theoretical implications are discussed.

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Correspondence to Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser.

Additional information

This study was supported in part by funds from the State of Ohio Department of Mental Health, the Bremer Foundation, and the Samuel J. Roessler Fund and by Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Grant CA-16058-09 from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.

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Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., Glaser, R., Strain, E.C. et al. Modulation of cellular immunity in medical students. J Behav Med 9, 5–21 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00844640

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Key words

  • stress
  • psychoimmunology
  • relaxation
  • cellular immunity