Special Clinical Talk - "Social Stress Responses and Inflammation-Associated Depression"
Abstract: Short-lived inflammatory responses are integral to healing, but long-lasting and systemic inflammation is a risk factor for chronic disease, accelerated aging, and depression. Even routine stressors and hassles provoke inflammatory responses, yet individuals differ in the magnitude and duration of their responses, how psychologically sensitive they are to inflammation, and how often this stress response is triggered. Exaggerated inflammatory responses in combination with frequent stress exposure may fuel chronic inflammation—one signal of immune dysregulation. My research program utilizes the lens of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) to investigate psychosocial factors that increase risk for immune dysregulation, and conversely how immune dysregulation shapes mental and physical health trajectories. Here I will show inflammation’s mood and behavioral correlates in humans. I will discuss one PNI-relevant pathway from social stress to inflammation to depressive symptom worsening, as well as a potential intervention strategy. Lastly, I will incorporate my research into the gut, its barrier, and its bacterial inhabitants as important influences on immune function and ultimately depression risk. Overall, I will show how frequent psychosocial stress, as well as concomitant problematic health behaviors, can dysregulate resting physiology to create an environment conducive for the development of depression and comorbid physical disease. The goal of my research program is to identify and test targeted PNI-informed psychosocial interventions to prevent stress-related diseases and disorders and promote better responses to immunomodulating treatments.