Mind can control your allergic response
NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH AUSTRALIA
THURSDAY, 19 JANUARY 2012
You – or more accurately, your brain – has control over how allergic your skin is, suggests new research.
A team of neuroscientists have found that if someone has a lesser sense of ownership over a part of their body, their immune system also responds differently to that body part, treating it as 'non-self' rather than 'self'.
These findings have direct implications for understanding autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and a range of neurological and psychiatric conditions characterised by a disrupted sense of ownership over one’s body, such as stroke, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
In two different experiments, Prof Lorimer Moseley and his team from Neuroscience Research Australia and the University of South Australia delivered histamine – the chemical the body produces when it is having an allergic reaction – to the arms of healthy volunteers while they were under the illusion that their real arm had been replaced by a rubber one.
They compared the size of the allergic response on the arm that had been 'replaced' to the response on the other arm, and also to the response on both arms during a control condition that had no illusion.They found that during the illusion, the response to histamine was bigger on the arm that had been replaced by the rubber one.