Stress Management Effects on Health How Psychoneuroimmunology Sheds Light on Stress and Overall Health By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 25, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print 4FR / Getty Images Psychoneuroimmunology, also known as PNI, is an important, relatively new field that lends solid research to our understanding of the mind-body connection. What Is Psychoneuroimmunology? In a nutshell, PNI studies the connection between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the body. A more detailed description of PNI was given in an interview with Dr. Robert Ader, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and one of the pioneers of this rapidly growing branch of research. It reads as follows: “Psychoneuroimmunology refers, most simply, to the study of the interactions among behavioral, neural and endocrine (or neuroendocrine), and immunologic processes of adaptation. Its central premise is that homeostasis is an integrated process involving interactions among behavior and the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems.” History The field grew from the work of Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov and his classical conditioning model. Pavlov was able to condition dogs to salivate when they heard the ring of a bell by ringing a bell when they were given food. Eventually, they came to automatically associate the sound of the bell with the act of eating, so that when the food was no longer given, the sound of the bell would automatically cause them to salivate. With PNI, Russian researchers conducted a series of experiments that showed that the body’s other systems may be altered by conditioning as well. Although their research does not live up to today’s rigorous standards, they were able to cause immunologic reactions in animals in much the same way that Pavlov created salivation in his dogs. American researchers like Ader took the research further in the United States, and we now know for certain that immune responses can be enhanced or suppressed with a wide variety of conditioned cues. We also have a deeper understanding of the placebo effect—some researchers are beginning to believe that it might be a conditioned response as well. Psychoneuroimmunology Applications Psychoneuroimmunology research sheds a great deal of light on many aspects of wellness and provides important research on stress. PNI studies have found many correlations between life events and health effects. As PNI has gained greater acceptance in the scientific community, the finding that emotional states can affect immunity has been an important one, and research in this area helps us to gain a clearer understanding of stress and its effects on health. We are gaining a clearer understanding of the links between lifestyle and personality factors and immunity as research continues. Stress and Health Research includes studies that exemplify what we have learned so far through the field of PNI and supply us with important information on the link between stress and health. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Freeman, L. W. (2009). Mosby’s complementary and alternative medicine. (3 ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby. By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Stress Management Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.