Scientific Support for Outlook
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Attitude is more than a state of mind.
Attitude influences how the brain manages healing. Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin has discovered that people who have a positive attitude have more electrical and metabolic activity on the left side of the brain's prefrontal lobe.
This is the side of the brain that, when activated, is associated with greater numbers of natural killer cells—the ones that help us fight viruses and perhaps even cancer.
It's not clear which is the chicken and which is the egg, but some studies suggest that simply by thinking positive thoughts you can turn on the side of the brain linked with improved immunity.
Dr. Margaret Kemeny has found that personal expectations are a significant predictor of HIV progression, especially when the person with a pessimistic outlook has experienced loss.
The patients in the study had a greater decrease in CD4 T-cells and a greater increase in serum and cell surface activation markers. Exactly how attitude can influence the prognosis of a patient with HIV is not clear. It may somehow trigger changes in the immune system through fear centers in the brain. Or perhaps the negative affect causes the person to give up and ignore options that might improve their health.