Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans
Language: 
English
Abstract: 

Excessive or persistent proinflammatory cytokine production plays a central role in autoimmune diseases. Acute activation of the sympathetic nervous system attenuates the innate immune response. However, both the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system are regarded as systems that cannot be voluntarily influenced. Herein, we evaluated the effects of a training program on the autonomic nervous system and innate immune response. Healthy volunteers were randomized to either the intervention (n = 12) or control group (n = 12). Subjects in the intervention group were trained for 10 d in meditation (third eye meditation), breathing techniques (i.a., cyclic hyperventilation followed by breath retention), and exposure to cold (i.a., immersions in ice cold water). The control group was not trained. Subsequently, all subjects underwent experimental endotoxemia (i.v. administration of 2 ng/kg Escherichia coli endotoxin). In the intervention group, practicing the learned techniques resulted in intermittent respiratory alkalosis and hypoxia resulting in profoundly increased plasma epinephrine levels. In the intervention group, plasma levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 increased more rapidly after endotoxin administration, correlated strongly with preceding epinephrine levels, and were higher. Levels of proinflammatory mediators TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-8 were lower in the intervention group and correlated negatively with IL-10 levels. Finally, flu-like symptoms were lower in the intervention group. In conclusion, we demonstrate that voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system results in epinephrine release and subsequent suppression of the innate immune response in humans in vivo. These results could have important implications for the treatment of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases.

Author(s): 
Kox, Matthijs
van Eijk, Lucas T.
Zwaag, Jelle
van den Wildenberg, Joanne
Sweep, Fred C. G. J.
van der Hoeven, Johannes G.
Pickkers, Peter
Item Type: 
Journal Article
Publication Title: 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Journal Abbreviation: 
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
Publication Date: 
May 20, 2014
Publication Year: 
2014
Pages: 
7379-7384
Volume: 
111
Issue: 
20
ISSN: 
1091-6490
DOI: 
10.1073/pnas.1322174111
Library Catalog: 
NCBI Published Medical (?)
Extra: 
PMID: 24799686 PMCID: PMC4034215

Turabian/Chicago Citation

Matthijs Kox, Lucas T. van Eijk, Jelle Zwaag, Joanne van den Wildenberg, Fred C. G. J. Sweep, Johannes G. van der Hoeven and Peter Pickkers. May 20, 2014. "Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111: 20: 7379-7384. 10.1073/pnas.1322174111.

Wikipedia Citation

<ref> {{Cite journal | doi = 10.1073/pnas.1322174111 | issn = 1091-6490 | volume = 111 | pages = 7379-7384 | last = Kox | first = Matthijs | coauthors = van Eijk, Lucas T., Zwaag, Jelle, van den Wildenberg, Joanne, Sweep, Fred C. G. J., van der Hoeven, Johannes G., Pickkers, Peter | title = Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans | journal = Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | date = May 20, 2014 | pmid = | pmc = }} </ref>