ESTHER M. STERNBERG M.D. received her M.D. and Rheumatology training at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and was on the faculty at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, before joining the National Institutes Health in 1986. Currently Chief of the Section on Neuroendocrine Immunology and Behavior at the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Sternberg is also Director of the Integrative Neural Immune Program, NIMH/NIH and Co-Chair of the NIH Intramural Program on Research in Women's Health.
Dr. Sternberg is internationally recognized for her discoveries in brain - immune interactions and the brain's stress response in diseases including arthritis: the science of the mind-body interaction. She publishes numerous original scientific articles, reviews and textbook chapters in leading scientific journals and authored the popular book: The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions.
She has received the Public Health Service Superior Service Award; Arthritis Foundation William R. Felts Award; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services PHS Staff Recognition Award; FDA Commissioner's Special Citation; NIMH Director's Merit Award; was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and a committee of the Institute of Medicine; testified before Congress; was a World Health Organization Advisor and member of the National Library of Medicine's Literature Selection Technical Review (Medline) Committee.
Dr. Sternberg lectures and chairs conferences nationally and internationally, including the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.), Nobel Forum (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm); is past-President of the International Society for Neuroimmunomodulation; co-directed the National Library of Medicine’s Exhibition on "Emotions and Disease" (1996); was featured in the NLM’s Exhibition on Women in Medicine (2004-05); and is featured in the 2006 PBS Television Special “The New Medicine”
Recent scientific discoveries have shown rich communication networks between the brain and immune systems: the scientific underpinning of the popular mind-body interaction. The idea that the mind and negative or positive states of mind, such as psychological stress or well-being, can influence health and disease has been in the popular culture for thousands of years, although until recently these concepts were not accepted by the academic medical and scientific community. Recent scientific advances prove that there are many connections in which nerve chemicals, hormones, nerves and immune molecules and cells allow a two-way communication between the brain and immune system. Through such communications the nervous and immune systems interact and modify each other's functions. Interruptions of this interaction, whether genetic or related to drug treatment or surgical interventions lead to enhanced susceptibility to inflammatory disease. Over-activity of the brain’s stress response, such as occurs during stress, is associated with more severe infectious disease, decreased resistance to infection and prolonged wound healing. In contrast, salubrious activities like meditation reduce the stress response and enhance release of positive hormones and nerve chemicals. Such activities and others that reduce the stress response, as well as social support, exercise, healthy diet, protect against the negative effects of stress on health. On the basis of such findings, new drug treatments are currently being developed and complementary and alternative therapies can be judiciously incorporated into medical care.
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