A Complete Regulatory Loop between the Immune and Neuroendocrine Systems Operates Through Common Signal Molecules (Hormones) and Receptors

  • Eric M. Smith
  • J. Edwin Blalock


A link between an individual’s psyche and ability to resist disease has been noted for a number of years but was largely based on anecdotal and phenomenological reports. While many mechanisms are possible, a large body of evidence has recently accumulated suggesting a circuit between the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, that operates in both directions. Both structural and functional evidence supports this relationship. Structural studies have shown the thymus, spleen, bone marrow, and possibly other lymphoid organs are innervated with both afferent and efferent nerve fibers (for review see reference 1). Specific perturbations of the central nervous system (CNS) such as brain lesioning (2) or sympathectomy (3) will enhance or suppress immune responses. Also, alterations in noradrenaline turnover and neuron firing rates have been observed in the hypothalamus at the height of an immune response (4,5). In addition to these “hard wired” connections, modulation of immune responses may occur indirectly through neuroendocrine hormones and neurotransmitters such as corticotropin (ACTH), endorphins (END), enkephalins (ENK), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), as well as others (6–9; for review see 10). These hormones and neurotransmitters have been shown to modulate antibody production (7,11), T lymphocyte rosetting (6,12), natural killer (NK) cell activity (13–15), response to mitogens (16), and other examples reviewed in reference 10.


Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide Newcastle Disease Virus Corticotropin Release Factor Neuroendocrine System Endotoxic Shock 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric M. Smith
    • 1
  • J. Edwin Blalock
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA

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