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Brain Behav Immun. 2008 Jul;22(5):717-26. Epub 2007 Dec 18.

Social temperament and lymph node innervation.

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Cousins Center for PNI, Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7076, USA.


Socially inhibited individuals show increased vulnerability to viral infections, and this has been linked to increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). To determine whether structural alterations in SNS innervation of lymphoid tissue might contribute to these effects, we assayed the density of catecholaminergic nerve fibers in 13 lymph nodes from seven healthy adult rhesus macaques that showed stable individual differences in propensity to socially affiliate (Sociability). Tissues from Low Sociable animals showed a 2.8-fold greater density of catecholaminergic innervation relative to tissues from High Sociable animals, and this was associated with a 2.3-fold greater expression of nerve growth factor (NGF) mRNA, suggesting a molecular mechanism for observed differences. Low Sociable animals also showed alterations in lymph node expression of the immunoregulatory cytokine genes IFNG and IL4, and lower secondary IgG responses to tetanus vaccination. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that structural differences in lymphoid tissue innervation might potentially contribute to relationships between social temperament and immunobiology.

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