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Individual Differences in Cellular Immune Response to Stress
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Correlational studies suggest that psychological stress suppresses cellular immune function in some, but not all, individuals. Here, effects of acute mental stress on lymphocyte subpopulations and T-lymphocyte mitogenesis were examined experimentally in healthy young adults. CD8 (T-suppressor/cytotoxic) lymphocytes increased in number and T-cell response to stimulation by phytohemagglutinin was attenuated following exposure to a 20-min laboratory stressor, but only in persons who also showed heightened catecholamine and cardiovascular reactions to stress. Hence, individuals differ substantially in their immunologic responsivity to behavioral stimuli, and such differences parallel (and may be predicted by) interindividual variability in stress-induced sympathetic nervous system activation.