The idea that the mind and negative or positive states of mind, such as psychological stress or well-being, can influence health and disease has been in the popular culture for thousands of years, although until recently these concepts were not accepted by the academic medical and scientific community. Dr. Sternberg’s talk will describe recent scientific advances that prove the rich network of connections by which the brain and immune system communicate, via nerve chemicals, hormones, nerves and immune cells and molecules. Interruptions of these connections or over-activity, such as occurs during stress, leads to disease. In contrast, salubrious activities like meditation that reduce the stress response, maintain these connections and maintain health. On the basis of such findings, new treatments are currently being developed and physicians and the academic medical and scientific community are embracing the integration of complementary and alternative therapies into conventional medical care.
ESTHER STERNBERG, M.D. received her medical and rheumatology training at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. She was on the faculty at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, before joining the National Institutes Health in 1986, where she currently does research on the brain-immune connection. Dr. Sternberg is also Research Professor at American University. She is internationally recognized for discoveries on the role of the brain’s stress response in diseases such as arthritis, and for her popular book on that subject, The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions.