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J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;8(1):180-8. doi: 10.1007/s11481-012-9388-6. Epub 2012 Jul 13.

Learned immunosuppression: extinction, renewal, and the challenge of reconsolidation.

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Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Hufelandstrasse 55, 45122 Essen, Germany.


Behavioral conditioning of immune responses is one of the most impressive examples for the bidirectional communication among the nervous and immune systems. We established a model of behaviorally conditioned immunosuppression employing a conditioned taste aversion (CTA) paradigm in the rat pairing a novel taste (saccharin) as a conditioned stimulus (CS) with the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporine A (CsA) as an unconditioned stimulus (US). By re-presenting the CS during evocation, rats avoid drinking the saccharin. Concomitantly animals display an immunosuppression reflected by an ex vivo reduction in splenic T cell proliferation as well as diminished interleukin-2 and interferon-γ production and cytokine mRNA expression, mimicking the actual effect of the US (CsA). Due to the fact that the kinetics of this behaviorally conditioned immunosuppression are completely unknown, extinction of the conditioned response on the behavioral level (CTA) as well as in the immune response needs to be elucidated together with the neural processes mediating the extinction process.

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