“Our findings indicate that activation of areas of the brain associated with positive expectations can affect how the body copes with diseases,” explained lead author Asya Rolls, assistant professor of immunology at the medical school of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
“Placebo is a complex phenomenon in which the patient’s expectation of recovery affects his state of health,” she continued. “Expectation of improvement and arousal of positive emotions are reflected in the activity of neurons in the brain. So we decided to understand, at the molecular level, how areas of the brain associated with positive expectations affect the functioning of the immune system – the body’s main defense system.
“Understanding the mechanisms connecting the brain to the immune system could lead to significant medical applications that can potentially improve the prognosis of diseases.”
In conclusion, she said, “We know that our mental and emotional state impacts our health but in order to be able to use this potential of the brain to cure in modern medicine, we need to understand how it works. Understanding how activation of the reward system in the brain triggers the immune system will allow us to optimise existing therapies against infections and boost the effectiveness of vaccines.”