PNI (or Psychoneuroimmunology as it is formally known) is the science of mind/body medicine. Research has shown that signals from the brain (psycho...), nervous system (..neuro..) and immune system (..immunology) all communicate and connect within an area of the brain called the Limbic System.
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) - the study of the mind/body connections
According to Steven Maier, PhD, who has researched what he calls the body's "sickness response" a series of physiological and behavioural changes occur when the body detects an infection. This response includes changes in liver metabolism, raised temperature (fever), reduced food & water intake, reduced exploration, reduced sexual activity and increased anxiety. It also activates a classic stress response, releasing hormones such as cortisol.
Maier concludes the sickness pattern is the body's orchestrated attempt to produce energy to fight infection and preserve energy through behavioural changes. The progress of this research has yielded amazing results leading to a better understanding of how the brain and body interact. They have discovered the processes by which a bacteria (blood-borne signal) is then translated into a hormone signal, which is then translated into a neurotransmitter signal (used by the nervous system) that can be sent to the brain. Once the brain gets this message it produces its own hormone signal to trigger the "sickness response" and sends signals back to the immune system, further activating immune cells.
The team discovered that it is a complete, bi-directional system. Stress taps into this very circuit, but starts the signal in the brain to produce not only the "stress response" but also the "sickness response".
This would be useful - this enhancing of first-line defence/immunity - if we were in some physical danger and likely to be injured. But if constantly kept active, it would deplete the immune resources - a bit like keeping your foot on the accelerator after the car has stopped.
Further research is demonstrating the depressed mood produces all the same behavioural changes as both the stress response and sickness response - changes that conserve energy and keep people out of harms way!
It is as a direct consequence of PNI that we at the Bodywork Clinic think we have a unique approach. We follow principles of PNI and look at the whole person to restore health.
Every health issue a person experiences has a physical/physiological AND a psychological aspect - and we seek to deal with BOTH. We also believe in the value of orthodox medicine and seek integration of the two approaches wherever appropriate.