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Do sick people trigger immune responses in people that are not sick? May 2, 2010

Posted by Jill in Behavior, Biology, Health, Neuroscience.

Chicken pox

The answer to this question is apparently, yes. A new study suggests that when people see someone that is blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or generally looking under the weather, could potentially trigger an immune response. In the study, participants were shown images of people with cold-like symptoms or other infectious diseases, such as pox or skin lesions, while another group of participants were not shown images of people feeling or looking sick. Among the two groups, blood samples were taken from all of the individuals to determine the extent of an immune response. Researchers found that the participants that were shown the images of the sick people mounted a stronger immune response against bacteria that had been added to each blood sample.

Similar photo to what study participants viewed that triggered an immune response

According to Lindsay Lyon, a reporter for U.S. News, reported seven ways to prevent from getting a cold. One of these ways was actually broadening one’s social network—those with larger and more diverse social networks tend to have less colds or are able to fight off colds better than those with smaller social circles. Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, backs this theory with a line of evidence saying that people who are socially connected tend to live much longer than those with weak or a small number of relationships. Most experts would argue that the quality of a relationship beats the quantity of relationships, but Cohen argues that his data indicates the two factors are relatively similar, but either one has a positive impact on longevity.

The full study can be found in the Journal of Psychological Science.



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