Psychoneuroimmunology is a research field that studies the connections between the immune system, the brain, and psychological functions. The research deals with the relationship between physical and mental health, which is investigated via measurable effects in the connection between mental processes and health and between the nervous system and the immune system.
– This is an incredibly exciting research field, and we’re just seeing the beginning of it. The most fascinating discoveries still lie ahead, says Mats Lekander, professor at the Stockholm University Institute for Stress Research and Karolinska Institutet, one of the pioneers in the field.
Groundbreaking discoveries despite new research field
Psychoneuroimmunology is a relatively new research area, about twenty years old, that, together with adjacent research fields, has already produced a number of trailblazing discoveries:
• How the immune system governs the brain during illness.
• A new view of the mechanisms behind depression.
• Severe stress affects and accelerates the body’s aging.
• New knowledge about placebo effects creating new potential for more effective medicines.
• How patients are received by healthcare providers affects the body’s healing processes.
– Psychoneuroimmunology clearly links together subject perceptions with biological observations, for example, how people perceive their health, says Mats Lekander.
International conference with world’s leading researchers and Nobel laureates
On June 6–8 some 250 researchers will gather from all over the world, many of them world leaders in their research areas, in Stockholm to present their latest findings at the 20th PNIRS Scientific Meeting.
The keynote speakers are Dr Bruce Beutler, 2011 Nobel laureate in medicine and Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, 2009 Nobel laureate in medicine, both of whom will present new findings in immunology about how behavior and age affect chromosomes. Among other interesting speakers are James M Kreuger and Andrew H Miller, both from the US, and Fabrizio Benedetti from Italy. Irving Kirsh, author of the book The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth will also speak at the conference.
– It’s wonderful and exciting to arrange this conference in Scandinavia for the first time. A researcher like Elizabeth Blackburn is fascinating because she combines her revolutionary discoveries in biology with insights into how behavior and lifestyle can measurably impact these biological factors. James Krueger has shown how immunological factors regulate sleep, and Fabrizio Benedetti and Manfred Schedlowski have both made important discoveries in understanding the placebo phenomenon. All these researchers combine psychology and biology in order to understand highly subtle processes that have previously only been subject to guessing, says Mats Lekander.
The host of the 20th PNIRS Scientific Meeting is the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University in collaboration with Karolinska Institutet. PNIRS, the PsychoNeuroImmunological Research Society, is an international association of scientists inpsychoneuroimmunology.