Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Merely seeing disease symptoms may promote aggressive immune response

Date:
April 28, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Just seeing someone who looks sick is enough to make your immune system work harder, according to a new study in which volunteers looked at pictures of sick people.

Just seeing someone who looks sick is enough to make your immune system work harder, according to a new study in which volunteers looked at pictures of sick people.

This may help fight off pathogens, says Mark Schaller from the University of British Columbia who conducted the research. "It seems like it's probably good for the immune system to be responding especially aggressively at times when it looks like you are likely to be coming into contact with something that might make you sick."

Previous research has found that, when people see someone who looks sick, they have a psychological response -- they feel disgusted and want to stay away. Schaller, Gregory E. Miller, Will M. Gervais, Sarah Yager, and Edith Chen, all at the University of British Columbia, wanted to go one step farther, to see if looking at sick people might also affect how the immune system itself works.

For this study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, volunteers were shown two 10-minute slide shows on two different days. The first one was a neutral slide show, with pictures of furniture. The second was one of two options: a disease slide show, showing people with pox, blowing their noses, sneezing, and so forth, or a slide show of guns. Before and after the slide shows, a blood sample was taken from each volunteer. A little bacteria was added to the blood sample, then the researchers measured the strength of the immune response (specifically, how much of a substance called interleukin-6 the immune cells produced).

People who had looked at the pictures of people sneezing, coughing, or otherwise showing signs of disease had a stronger immune response than people who had looked at pictures of men aiming guns at them. This kind of response to the sight of diseased people may have been evolutionarily adaptive, according to Schaller and his colleagues. Although an aggressive immune response has infection-fighting benefits, it's also costly -- it consumes energy and can be temporarily debilitating. It may have been adaptive for the immune system to react especially aggressively when additional information indicates that the threat of infection appears high. According to Schaller, "The things we see around us, such as the sight of sick people, can provide that kind of information. And it makes sense for the immune system to respond to it."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mark Schaller, Gregory E. Miller, Will M. Gervais, Sarah Yager, Edith Chen. Mere Visual Perception of Other People%u2019s Disease Symptoms Facilitates a More Aggressive Immune Response. Psychological Science, 2010; DOI: 10.1177/0956797610368064

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Merely seeing disease symptoms may promote aggressive immune response." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427111248.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, April 28). Merely seeing disease symptoms may promote aggressive immune response. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427111248.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Merely seeing disease symptoms may promote aggressive immune response." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100427111248.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Artificial Sweetener Could Promote Diabetes

Artificial Sweetener Could Promote Diabetes

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Doctors once thought artificial sweeteners lacked the health risks of sugar, but a new study says they can impact blood sugar levels the same way. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Trial Gets Underway at Oxford University

Ebola Vaccine Trial Gets Underway at Oxford University

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) A healthy British volunteer is to become the first person to receive a new vaccine for the Ebola virus after US President Barack Obama called for action against the epidemic and warned it was "spiralling out of control." Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obesity Rates Steady Even As Americans' Waistlines Expand

Obesity Rates Steady Even As Americans' Waistlines Expand

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Researchers are puzzled as to why obesity rates remain relatively stable as average waistlines continue to expand. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins