A growing literature reports that stressful life events are associated with exacerbation and the subsequent development of brain lesions in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The evolution an MS exacerbation occurs over a period of many months and involves many different biological processes that change over time. Likewise, the experience of stress also occurs over time, with an onset, a shift from acute to chronic in some cases, and resolution. Each of these phases is associated with unique biological features. Thus, the impact of stress on MS exacerbation may depend on the temporal trajectories of stress and MS exacerbation, and when the intersection between these two trajectories occurs. This paper presents a temporal model, along with three different temporal relationships and associated mechanisms by which stress may impact MS exacerbation. These include the onset of a stressor, which may be mediated by mast cell activation, the point that a stressor begins to become chronic, which may be mediated by glucocorticoid resistance in immune cells, and the resolution of the stressor, which may be mediated by a drop in cortisol. These three hypotheses are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Data on psychosocial mediators and moderators are also briefly reviewed and future research directions are discussed.
- Behavioral medicine
- Multiple sclerosis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience