Learning, stress, and psychosomatic symptoms
Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis
Professor Jerzy Konorski was an internationally renowned scientist with a remarkable range of intellectual power and enthusiasm; he also was a warm friend. It is a great honor to be invited to contribute a paper to publications commemorating his life and work. As infectious diseases are being conquered, other pathological conditions are assuming increasing medical importance. A number of these are strongly influenced by the brain in its central role of regulating a wide variety of vital
... ty of vital functions. It has long been believed that the mind affects the body; recent research in supplying objective evidence for an increasing number of such psychosomatic effects. This paper summarizes some experiments from the author's Laboratory on such effects and also on some of the ways in which amines and hormones in the brain affect behavior. In view of the wide range of Professor Konorski's interests, it is fitting that the work to be summarized here has been multidisciplinary. Clinical studies, especially under conditions of combat in war, show that fear and the conflict it can induce can produce a wide range of psychosomatic, neurotic, and even psychotic symptoms. Such work also indicates that purely psychological factors, such as learning when it is dangerous and when it is safe and learning coping responses, can make a great difference in the amount of fear experienced and in its psychosomatic effects. However, while clinical observations of human behavior are particularly relevant, it is difficult to untangle confounding factors and thus determine unequivocal causal relationships. The immediately following experiments attempt to fill part of this gap.