Stress-related programming of autonomic imbalance: role in allergy and asthma

Chem Immunol Allergy. 2012;98:32-47. doi: 10.1159/000336496. Epub 2012 Jun 26.


Evidence linking psychological stress to allergy has grown with our increased understanding of the natural history and pathophysiology of these disorders and the neurobiology of stress vulnerability. However, the specific pathways that increase vulnerability to developing allergy and associated disorders remain to be elucidated. Autonomic nervous system functioning (autonomic balance) has been implicated in allergy for some time albeit links between autonomic balance and immune function in early development have been under studied. Starting in utero, stress may influence the programming of brain neurotransmitter systems, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system functioning, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which in turn may alter neural regulation of immune function. Epigenetic dysregulation of gene expression may be a fundamental mechanism for programming of early neural-immune processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex / metabolism
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / immunology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Immunomodulation
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Stress, Psychological*