Lend an ear to this mouthful. Psychoneuroimmunology -- the short form. Or better, psychoendoneuroimmunology.
I can barely pronounce it. Not sure I can spell it. And why should I care about this psycho-thing?
As it happens, I have good reason to care. For one who's been chronically ill, and has had little success with medicine in general, this tongue-twister represents a new doorway to hope for more complete recovery.
Let's dissect these syllables. We'll use the more complete term, "psychoendoneuroimmunology", rather than the (pardon) short one.
"Psycho-" for psychology; "endo-" for the endocrine or hormone system; "neuro-" for the nervous system; and "immuno-" for the immune system. Tack on the suffix "-logy".
Psychoendoneuroimmunology deals with the transactions and intersections of our minds and emotions, our nervous systems, our endocrine systems, and our immune systems, and the amazingly intricate way in which these affect each other -- and affect us.
It started in 1975 when Dr. Robert Ader was the director of Behavioral and Psychosocial Medicine at the University of Rochester in New York. Due to experiments he'd conducted, Dr. Ader suspected a link between thoughts and health.
The central nervous system runs like a highway map across the body, in two prongs, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The brain uses these highways to send out chemicals called information substances. This is not news. But what may be news is that the endocrine and the immune systems also send messages to the brain. And these systems have conversations all day long.
It appears that the endocrine and immune systems talk with the brain, through nervous system messaging, or through neuropeptides and hormones. It further appears that the endocrine and immune systems are sensitive to the chemicals / messages the brain transmits about our thoughts and emotions.
Still with me?
I will bring it home. Instead of being helpless bystanders, it seems we can play a small but deliberate role in our health. With hope and constructive thoughts as tools, focusing more on positive emotions and less on negative ones, we can have a restorative effect on our immune systems, our endocrine systems, our central nervous systems and the healing chemicals that outsource from there.
Psychoendoneuroimmunology is a vast arena, as big as the name suggests. I've only touched on a few points and oversimplified in the process. But this is an intriguing field, full of surprises and discovery, and worth revisiting in future articles.
Psychoneuroimmunology: Bi-directional Interactions Between the Brain and the Nervous System
Cytokines, and Depression
Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine