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The Biological Dance of Immunity and Anxiety

Emeritus Professor of Experimental Immunology Pierre Capel has researched fundamental and molecular biology for many years before turning his attention to a scientific exploration of the impact of feelings and emotions at cellular and DNA level. In this talk he shares his views on the perceived threat of COVID-19; the undermining effect of long-term anxiety; and how to restore hormonal and gene expression balance.

Pierre Capel on The Biological Dance of Immunity and Anxiety

Key insights

  • The immune system is highly individualized: Nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the species is to equip individuals with differing immune systems and therefore, differing immune responses to any given threat. The number of people with a genetic vulnerability to COVID-19 is extremely low.

  • The immune system is made up of layers, which come into action at different stages: Genetically speaking, the deeper cytokine layer, which we see over-reacting and complicating many COVID-19 cases, is malfunctioning in only a very small percentage of people.

  • The high anxiety response was a reaction to a threat that was both unknown and highly contagious: In the absence of solid data at the start of the epidemic, we assumed COVID-19 was very lethal. Currently we have much better data, but the media take the statistics out of context. The media’s way of presenting the information only amplifies anxiety.

  • Prolonged anxiety triggers a genetic response, which disbalances the immune system: Your ability to mount an effective immune response to the virus could be compromised by an anxious state of mind.

  • Further, chronic emotional stress facilitates the development of a large variety of chronic illnesses: It also reduces life expectancy by 7 years on average.

  • Our emotions trigger a hormonal reaction, and the hormones in turn influence gene expression: Twenty minutes a day of mind calming (e.g. meditation or a walk in nature) improves gene expression and redresses the disbalancing effects of anxiety for the following 24 hours.

Dive deeper

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About the crew member

Pierre Capel • Professor emeritus Immunology
Pierre Capel

Pierre is an emeritus professor of Experimental Immunology at Utrecht University. He studied Biochemistry at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of the University of Amsterdam. In recent years, he has studied the biochemical background of sports, yoga and meditation - resulting in his book The Emotional DNA, which combines the magical world of feelings with molecular biology. He shows us how our feelings can lead to sickening instructions to our DNA.

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