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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2007 Jul;32(6):587-603. Epub 2007 Jun 21.

2006 Curt P. Richter award winner: Social influences on stress responses and health.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, The Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Both positive and negative social interactions can modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and influence recovery from injuries and illnesses, such as wounds, stroke, and cardiac arrest. Stress exacerbates neuronal death following stroke and cardiac arrest, and delays cutaneous wound healing, via a common mechanism involving stress-induced increases in corticosterone, acting on glucocorticoid receptors. In contrast, hamsters and mice that form social bonds are buffered against stress and heal cutaneous wounds more quickly than socially isolated animals, presumably because the physical contact experienced by the pairs releases oxytocin, which in turn suppresses the HPA axis and facilitates wound healing. Social housing also decreases stroke-induced neuronal death and improves functional recovery, but the mechanism appears to involve suppressing the inflammatory response that accompanies stroke, rather than alterations in HPA axis activity. An interaction between the HPA axis and immune system determines stroke outcome in neonatally manipulated mice that exhibit life-long dampening of the HPA axis. Taken together, these studies provide support for the detrimental effects of stress and identify potential mechanisms underlying the well-documented clinical observation that social support positively influences human health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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