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Immune cognition, social justice and asthma: structured stress and the developing immune system

By Rodrick Wallace, Mindy Fullilove and Deborah Wallace


We explore the implications of IR Cohen's work on immune cognition for understanding rising rates of asthma morbidity and mortality in the US. Immune cognition is conjoined with central nervous system cognition, and with the cognitive function of the embedding sociocultural networks by which individuals are acculturated and through which they work with others to meet challenges of threat and opportunity. Using a mathematical model, we find that externally- imposed patterns of 'structured stress' can, through their effect on a child's socioculture, become synergistic with the development of immune cognition, triggering the persistence of an atopic Th2 phenotype, a necessary precursor to asthma and other immune disease. Reversal of the rising tide of asthma and related chronic diseases in the US thus seems unlikely without a 21st Century version of the earlier Great Urban Reforms which ended the scourge of infectious diseases

Topics: Theoretical Biology
Year: 2001
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