Stress, Health, and Disease
Why are you more likely to get sick during final exam week than during any other part of the semester? Can “germs” make you feel like you have depression, give you schizophrenia, or affect your brain development? Is stress always a health risk? This seminar will explore how stress and psychosocial factors affect disease processes that involve the immune system, the body’s defense against disease and infection, and a source of inflammation. Stress can compromise the immune system, leading to illness; but researchers have discovered that the opposite is also true: inflammatory immune responses influence brain and behavioral function. Thus, some immune responses have been linked to diseases affecting mental health. We will discuss links between stress and rates of infection, cancer, and autoimmune disease. In addition, we will learn about connections between inflammatory immune processes and depression, schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease.