Although the neuroendocrine system has immunomodulating potential, studies examining the relationship between stress, immunity and infection have, until recently, largely been the preserve of behavioural psychologists. Over the last decade, however, immunologists have begun to increasingly appreciate that neuroendocrine-immune interactions hold the key to understanding the complex behaviour of the immune system in vivo. The nervous, endocrine and immune systems communicate bidirectionally via shared messenger molecules variously called neurotransmitters, cytokines or hormones. Their classification as neurotransmitters, cytokines or hormones is more serendipity than a true reflection of their sphere of influence. Rather than these systems being discrete entities we would propose that they constitute, in reality, a single higher-order entity. This paper reviews current knowledge of neuroendocrine-immune interaction and uses the example of T-cell subset differentiation to show the previously under-appreciated importance of neuroendocrine influences in the regulation of immune function and, in particular, Th1/Th2 balance and diurnal variation there of.
- T-cell subsets