Do the stress reactions of our brain control the immune system — or is it the other way around?

In the past, writes Prof. Hermona Soreq in The Huffington Post, human stress reactions enabled our ancestors to survive attacks and protect the body from injury. Today, though stress does not necessarily involve physical attack, the body still prepares itself in the same ways — increasing blood pressure to prepare for running, and increasing the production of white blood cells for the anticipated injury. As the average human life span increases, the negative and sometimes disease provoking consequences of stress responses — which take years to develop — are becoming more relevant than ever before.

For the past two decades, Prof. Soreq and her colleagues at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences have pioneered and developed innovative strategies for investigating the consequences of traumatic experiences, and designed new strategies to combat neurodegenerative diseases. Their work has shown that like both inherited and acquired defects in neurons, as well as traumatic experiences or exposure to a contaminated environment, contribute to delayed susceptibilities to stress-associated diseases. Now, with the help of a $5 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, they hope to come closer to finding more permanent treatments for neurodegenerative and other diseases.

For Prof. Soreq’s article in The Huffington Post, click here