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Psychoneuroimmunology and Biofeedback

In the mid-twentieth century a Russian scientist, A. R. Luria, demonstrated that imagining running uphill actually increased his subject's pulse rate.*

In the 1960s, the newly emerging field of biofeedback research took observations such as Luria's and raised them to a new level, affirming our understanding of the mind/body connection. After fostering the creation of the science of the mind/body connection - known as psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) - biofeedback is today more accurately called neurofeedback. We now know that we can not only slow or quicken heartbeat, but affect a whole host of other physiological functions by merely thinking about stressful - or relaxing - conditions.

Under hypnosis, individuals can create blistered skin when given a suggestion that they have been burned. Simply believing you are in danger, or may be harboring a deadly tumor or virus, can create extreme changes in your body. Bob, who was a medic during the Korean War, tells the story of a young soldier who had a badly lacerated leg. His vital signs were excellent as the corpsmen worked on him. When the doctor arrived on the scene, he took one look at the leg and exclaimed, Oh my God, this is bad." The young patient immediately died.

Accounts of this nature are common. Doctors and nurses are continually confronted with the reality of the will to live or the wish to die in seriously ill people. Two individuals with the same symptoms. Prognosis for both is the same. One lives. One dies. Why? The Greek philosopher Socrates answered the question in 500 BCE: "There is no illness of the body apart from the mind." In modern times, Arnold Hutschnecker, MD, in his book The Will to Live, reinforced this: "Anxiety is a whisper of danger from the unconscious; whether the danger is real or imagined, the threat to health is real . . ."†

* For more information, see Luria, A. R., Working Brain: An Introduction to Neuropsychology (Basic Books, 1973).
† Hutschnecker, A., The Will to Live, rev. ed. (Cornerstone Library, 1972), 24.

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