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Transitional Medicine & Psychoneuroimmunology
(Mind-Body-Spirit Medicine)
For a more comprehensive view on this topic read this accompanying article.

Since the times of the Greeks conventional medicine has traditionally utilized the biomedical model. This model focuses on dualism involving the mind and the body interactions. The biomedical model treats disease as a pathology that occurs within the person. The doctor's function is to control the pathology, repair the body and restore health. The limitation of this model is that it excludes any psychological, social or ecological factors. [1]

In contrast, the humanistic model utilizes a pleuralistic approach considering interactions and the interconnectedness between the mind, the body and the spirit when treating "dis-ease" within a person. The health or well-being of the body can no longer ignore the impact of the mind, the emotions or the spirit on the process. [1,2]

This pleuralistic model, considering mind-body-spirit is being scientifically supported in the relatively new field of study—Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). New scientific research in this relatively young field has demonstrated that the mind can and does play a significant role in the disease and healing processes.

The field of Psychoneuroimmunology explores how the mind can and does impact the body in a multitude of systems—the immune system, the endocrine system, the nervous system, and the cardiovascular system. Sometimes the impact is positive e.g. when the immune system is enhanced to combat diseases, other times the impact is negative e.g. when heart disease (and the immune system) is significantly negatively impacted by the effects of stress. Regardless of the impact, with the current research in this field demonstrating otherwise, we can no longer ignore the impact of the mind, the emotions or the spirit on the health or well-being of the body or on the disease and healing processes.

The term Psychoneuroimmunology can be defined by it's component parts:

    Psyche - the mind component or study of psychology, the cognitive and emotional processes involving mood states.
    Neuro - the neurologic connections e.g. neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine secretions, or study of neurology
    Immunology how the immune system e.g. the cellular and humoral components is impacted, or the study of immunology.
Various Definitions of Psychoneuroimmunology:
The study of the interaction of behavioral, neural, and endocrine factors and the functioning of the immune system. [3]
The study of interactions, bidirectional communication occurring between behavior, brain, the immune and endocrine systems. [4]
The best working definition is the one below:
An interdisciplinary science that studies the interrelationships between psychological, behavioral, neuroendocrine processes and immunology.
Transitional Medicine
Transitional Medicine is also based on concepts of psychoneuroimmunology, recognizing that that the mind can and does play a significant role in the disease and healing processes.  Therefore many different areas—medicine, psychiatry, counseling, spirituality, art, color, poetry, and biblio- therapy—are utilized in combination to enhance the mind-body-spirit connections and create the healing experience needed following a loss.

For a more comprehensive view on the topic of Psychoneuroimmunology read the article on this subject prepared as part of the syllabus and lecture for the "Somatic Aspects of Loss & Grief," taught in August 2001 at the University of California Berkeley Extension as part of their Professional Program in the Study of Loss and Grief.

1. Tamm ME. Models of health and disease. British Journal of Medical Psychology. 1993;66:213-228.
2. Pert CB. Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. New York, N.Y.: Touchstone, 1997, p. 9, 184
3. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company: 2000. Available at: Leaving Site.
4. Maier SF, Watkins LR, Fleshner M. Psychoneuroimmunology: The Interface between behavior, Brain and Immunity. American Psychologist. 1994;49;1004-17.

The three traditionally separated fields of neuroscience, endocrinology and immunology, with their various organs—the brain, the glands, the spleen, bone morrow, and lymph nodes— are actually joined to each other in a multidirectional network of communication, linked by information carriers known as neuropeptides. 

Candice Pert Ph.D. [2]

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Last update Sept. 11, 2002