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February 20: Psychology and the Immune System

Lawrence Bush
February 20, 2017
Robert Ader, a lifelong professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Rochester and an inventor of the field of psychoneuroimmunology, which examines links between a person’s psychological life and immune system, was born on this date in 1932. Ader launched the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. “His theories that the human mind could significantly affect the ability of the immune system to fight disease,” writes the University of Rochester Medical Center, “initially were greeted with heated skepticism and sometimes scorn when he first proposed them . . . but now they are applied and studied in many medical specialties, not only psychiatry, by researchers around the world. . . . His work has extraordinary implications, not only for understanding immunological responses to stress and disease, but also for appreciating the potentially powerful positive effects of what so many call the ‘placebo effect.’ ” Ader “introduced a field of research that nailed down the science behind notions once considered magical thinking: that meditation helps reduce arterial plaque; that social bonds improve cancer survival; that people under stress catch more colds; and that placebos work not only on the human mind but also on supposedly insentient cells.” --Paul Vitello, New York Times

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.