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Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Jan;25(1):151-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.09.008. Epub 2010 Sep 22.

Nervous temperament in infant monkeys is associated with reduced sensitivity of leukocytes to cortisol's influence on trafficking.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, USA.


There is growing evidence that temperament/personality factors are associated with immune function and health-related outcomes. Neuroticism, in particular, is a risk-factor for several diseases, many with a strong inflammatory component. We propose that neuroticism (or nervous temperament in monkeys) is related to dysregulation of immune function by glucocorticoids. The present study tested the hypothesis that animals with a nervous temperament would show no relationship between cortisol concentrations and leukocyte numbers in peripheral blood (an easily obtainable measure of glucocorticoid-mediated immune function), while animals low on this factor would show expected relationships. Infant rhesus monkeys (n=1507) experienced a standardized testing procedure involving blood sampling, behavioral tests, and temperament ratings. Results confirmed the hypothesis: low-nervous animals showed the expected positive relationship between cortisol levels and neutrophil numbers, while high-nervous animals showed no relationship. High-nervous animals also showed elevated cortisol concentrations at most sample points, and responded to a human challenge with more negative emotional behavior. These data suggest that individuals with a nervous temperament show evidence of glucocorticoid desensitization of immune cells. Differences with other studies, including the specific types of leukocytes that are affected, are discussed, and implications for disease processes are suggested.

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