Although a mind-controlled immune system sounds like something from a science-fiction movie, it may not be as far-fetched as it seems. Researchers have observed a correlation between personality traits and the immune system.
Kavita Vadhara, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, UK, and collegues conducted a study with 121 healthy individuals to correlate personality traits with expression levels of genes associated with inflammatory immune response. The participants completed personality questionnaires in order to assess individual psycological attributes, such as extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness. Additionally, all participants provided blood samples for expression analysis of 19 genes, such as NF-κB, a key player in immune response to infection.
The scientists found that extroversion correlated with up-regulated gene expression of pro-inflammatory genes, while conscientiousness was associated with down-regulation of pro-inflammatory genes. However, the question whether personality influences the immune system, or whether the immune system manipulates behaviour, remains unanswered.
- Personality and gene expression: Do individual differences exist in the leukocyte transcriptome?,
Kavita Vedhara, Sana Gill, Lameese Eldesouky, Bruce K. Campbell, Jesusa M.G. Arevalo, Jeffrey Ma, Steven W. Cole,
Psychoneuroendocrinology 2015, 52, 72–82.