Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Stress, Immunity and Mood Study

Typhoid vaccine is a relatively mild immune stimulus that can be used as a model of inflammation in humans. In a series of double-blind placebo-controlled studies, we showed that this vaccine induces a negative mood state and psychomotor slowing in healthy volunteers and that these responses are particularly marked in volunteers who mount a larger cytokine response to the vaccine. fMRI analyses demonstrated that these behavioural and mood changes are associated with altered neural activity in a midbrain dopaminergic nucleus known as the substantia nigra, and the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. Individuals subject to a psychological stressor developed larger cytokine and mood responses to typhoid vaccine suggesting that as seen in animals, stress can synergistically enhance responses to pathogens in humans. Current work is examining the relationship between obesity, inflammation and mood. Obesity is a chronic inflammatory condition and is associated with increased susceptibility to anxiety and depression. Since adipose tissue is a major source of stress-responsive cytokines, we are testing whether individuals with greater adiposity may have larger cytokine and mood responses to typhoid vaccine.

This study was funded by a programme grant from the British Heart Foundation to Professor Andrew Steptoe.  

Principal Investigators: Professor Andrew Steptoe

Contact: Professor Andrew Steptoe (a.steptoe@ucl.ac.uk)

Collaborators: Professor Hugo Critchley (Brighton and Sussex Medical School), Dr Neil Harrison (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience), Dr Henrik Chart (Health Protection Agency, London) and Professor Akira Tsuda (Kurume University, Japan)