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Rabin BS. Stress, immune function and health. The connection. Wiley-Liss, Chichester, 1999. 341 pages. ISBN 0471241814. £58.50.

Information has accumulated in recent years indicating that the adaptive response to external stimuli includes a complex network of interactions among the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. This has led to a new discipline, i.e., neuroendocrinoimmunology, with ad hoc societies and publications, as well as specific research and clinical professional profiles.

This book by Bruce S. Rabin offers a significant contribution to this emerging trend, by focusing on the major inducer of immune-nervous-endocrine interactions: stress. As noted by S. Cohen and S. Manuck in their foreword to the book, the first five chapters form a fairly complete, up-to-date discussion of the current understanding of the immune-nervous-endocrine interactions by covering areas such as the function of the immune system, the interaction of the nervous and immune systems, the relation between stress and immunity, and how the hormonal response induced by stress alters the immune system.

Then the book turns to topics of more clinical and applied interest. Special emphasis is on the effect of stress on autoimmune infections and malignancies. A single chapter is devoted, in particular, to behaviour that can be used to reduce the detrimental effects of stress on the immune system and health by answering the question, can a stress-resistant brain be engineered? I found these two chapters very interesting and stimulating even if, as an allergist, I should have liked to find more information on the effect of stress on allergic diseases such as asthma.

Finally, the two concluding chapters address the role of stress in the life cycle by focusing, respectively, on the effect of maternal stress on the offspring, and on the psychoneuroimmunology of the elderly.

It is quite evident that the author has a solid background in both the basic and clinical aspects discussed in the book, since the references are accurate and are carefully discussed to give a correct interpretation of experimental data. The book offers an experience-based view of the topics addressed, although some other topics in the vast area of neuroendocrinoimmunology are only partially covered or deliberately omitted.

I read this book with interest, and I agree with the two authors of the foreword that it is a very useful text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses on mind-body-health interactions.