• Bernard T. Donovan


With the explosive resurgence of interest in the immune mechanisms of the body in recent years, the influence of the brain on the resistance to infection and to antigens is attracting increasing attention, although the subject is far from new and the older literature is full of suggestive information. The likelihood that psychological factors might influence the course of disease has been discussed for centuries, with tuberculosis being an example of an infection where the resistance of an individual was thought to be altered by emotion. But evidence concerning the way in which susceptibility to bacterial attack might be adjusted by the psyche is of relatively recent date. Nevertheless, there is now much information to show that immunological responses to infection can be affected by conditioning in the Pavlovian manner, so that there is an experimental foundation for the possible treatment of immune disease by conditioning procedures (Ader, 1981). About twenty years ago the British immunologist John Humphreys published a study with others showing that the local inflammation and swelling that follows injection of an extract of tubercle bacilli into the skin (the tuberculin reaction) could be significantly inhibited by post-hypnotic suggestion (Black et al., 1969), but this was greeted with scepticism and largely ignored. It has even proved possible to modulate an immune reaction voluntarily, through meditation (Smith et al., 1985).


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Copyright information

© Bernard T. Donovan 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard T. Donovan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyInstitute of PsychiatryLondonUK

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