PsychoNeuroImmunology – our mind, brain, and immune system.

I’ve just completed a CPD with Dr Rachel Gillibrand on Psychoneuroimmunology, explaining how our state of mind impacts our immune reponse.

There is, nowadays, a lot of evidence that stress, even including neutral or even positive changes to one’s life, lead to a significant degradation of the immune system. So, therapy to reduce stress – to make a new situation feel normal – would serve to restore the immune system to the pre-stress level. But how exactly does this happen?

Firstly, if the interaction between our amygdala and hippocampus evaluates that a situation either matches a dangerous previous experience, or fails to match a safe previous experience, then that generates stress.

  • Related, if we are in a low mood state (which can lead to Depression) then that makes our memories “foggy”, both in terms of recall, and in terms of making new memories at that time.
  • Also relevant, people with traumatic lives develop larger and/or denser amygdala, resulting in them being more alert to dangers.

The hippocampus contains behaviour templates that describe what to do in different situations: in the case of illness, it then signals the hypothalamus, which in turn sends messages to the thyroid and other parts of the body.

(And we note that the behavioral templates in the hippocampus can be updated with metaphorical stories, especially in trance.)

All being well, the responses of the immune system (to both injury and illness) should send a signal to the amygdala, that leads to this response calming down over time.

However, problems can occur if the mind is in a negative world-view, (potentially, this being compounded by the injury or disease itself,) leading to the perception (by the brain) that the illness is worse than it actually is, leading to an overly agressive or overly systained immune reaction.

In summary: the immune response uses the behavioral templates stored in the hippocampus, and that is what can be reprogrammed by hypnotherapy, so any conditions relating to the response of the immune system – either too much, or not enough – are conditions which can be effected by hypnotherapy.