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FASEB J. 2002 Dec;16(14):1869-73.

Behavioral conditioning of immunosuppression is possible in humans.

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  • 1Department of Medical Psychology, University of Essen, Essen, Germany.


Behavioral conditioned immunosuppression has been described in rodents as the most impressive demonstration of brain-to-immune system interaction. To analyze whether behavioral conditioned immunosuppression is possible in humans, healthy subjects in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study were conditioned in four sessions over 3 consecutive days, receiving the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporin A as an unconditioned stimulus paired with a distinctively flavored drink (conditioned stimulus) each 12 h. In the next week, re-exposure to the conditioned stimulus (drink), but now paired with placebo capsules, induced a suppression of immune functions as analyzed by the IL-2 and IFN-gamma mRNA expression, intracellular production, and in vitro release of IL-2 and IFN-gamma, as well as lymphocyte proliferation. These data demonstrate for the first time that immunosuppression can be behaviorally conditioned in humans.

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