…Schedlowski is steadfastly optimistic that the benefits of conditioning are too great to ignore. “Ten years ago, nobody believed us,” he says. “Now, journals are much more open-minded to this kind of approach.” He believes that within a decade or two we’ll see a revolution in which learning regimes will become a routine component of drug treatment for a wide range of conditions. Drug companies might not see the advantages now, but in future, he argues, they could use the reduced side-effects of lower doses as a selling point.
For now, though, there’s a long way to go before the potential for conditioned immune responses is widely accepted, let alone used in the clinic. It’s hard enough for people to entertain the idea of using placebos to treat pain, or psychiatric disorders, and using them to influence immune responses sounds even crazier.
Brain–immune interactions are a “blind spot” for immunologists, admits Ferguson, with funding and interest for this type of work practically non-existent. Researchers are “vaguely” aware that the two systems communicate, he says, “but there’s this traditionality whereby people describe the immune system as everything going on from the neck downwards, and the central nervous system is everything from the neck upwards, and the two things haven’t been linked very much.”
Long article, worth the read.