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Could a stress vaccine actually work?




A woman receives a swine flu vaccine in the eastern German city of Dresden on November 4, 2009.
A woman receives a swine flu vaccine in the eastern German city of Dresden on November 4, 2009.
NORBERT MILLAUER/AFP/Getty Images

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As reported in the November issue of the Atlantic, researchers at Columbia University are developing a treatment to prevent stress. In short, it’s  a “stress vaccine.”

While this idea may seem too good to be true, the development team is looking at how mice can be more resilient after exposure to stress, and it’s working. Mice who were given the vaccine showed no changes in behavior after exposure to stressful situations--as if the trauma hadn’t occurred.

Neuroscientists studying ways to bring the vaccine to humans hope it will help prevent mental illnesses like depression and post-traumatic stress. It would be administered to patients prior to a potentially stressful situation, with resistance to trauma lasting weeks or months at a time.

But would this vaccine actually work without damaging other functions of the body such as immunity?

Larry Mantle weighs in with the developer of the stress vaccine to find out more.

Guests:

Rebecca Brachman, neuroscientist at Columbia University; she is working with the university’s Denny Laboratory to develop a preventative treatment for stress.

George Slavich, clinical psychologist and director of the Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research at UCLA