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Press the button, depress immunity.

Press the button, depress immunity

Another clue to the complex relationship between stress and immunity comes from a laboratory study directed by psychologist Carol S. Weisse of Union college in Schenectady, N.Y. She and her co-workers find that men who can shut off intermittent mild electrical shocks and loud tones by pressing a button show lowered immune function shortly after the half-hour test session. Immune function remains stable among men with no control over random shocks and tones.

The researchers studied 22 healthy men between the ages of 21 and 36. During test sessions, half the group could stop 7-second shocks and tones by pressing a button four times. Blood samples were drawn two hours after the sessions.

Men in the no-control situation understandably became more frustrated and angry during the test, while the button-pushers reported few mood changes. But only the latter group had lower immune responses after the test, as measured by the numbers of monocytes present and by lymphoctye responses to substances that stimulate their reproduction. Monocytes and lymphocytes are white blood cells important in the immune response.

These results are surprising, Weisse says, given an earlier finding that rat immunity drops only when shocks are uncontrollable. The difference may be due to timing, she asserts. Rat immune function is measured the day after stress tests.

Men who could stop the shocks and tones may have been in a state of alertness that promoted lower immune responses, Weisse notes, although their immune measures remained in the normal range.
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Title Annotation:stress and immunity
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 26, 1989
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