Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


A number of studies have adduced evidence suggesting that stressful events affect immunity in humans. The present research was designed to extend this earlier work by assessing cytokine production and blast transformation in mononuclear cells obtained from medical students writing an academic examination. Additionally, the hypothesis that personality characteristics can moderate the relationship between stress and immune functioning was investigated.;A number of response measures were assessed at each of 3 sample times: baseline (time 1); one month later, immediately after subjects had written an examination (time 2); and again 15 days later (time 3). The response measures included mood (subjective stress ratings, anxiety, and depression), cortisol levels, interleukin-1 (IL-1) and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production, lymphocyte responsiveness to both concanavalin A (ConA) and Pokeweed mitogen (PWM), and symptom reporting. Additionally, 3 personality characteristics were tested as moderators of stress: Type A, Locus of Control, and Sense of Humor.;Multivariate repeated measures analyses were employed to determine whether there were changes in these 5 groups of dependent variables symptom reporting) across the 3 sample points.;The results indicated, that as expected, subjects reported greater anxiety and subjective stress ratings after the examination, compared with times 1 and 3. Furthermore, lymphocyte responsiveness to both ConA and PWM was decreased at time 2, as was the production of IFN-gamma, supporting earlier reports of immunosuppression after relatively commonplace stressors. In contrast to predictions, however, IL-1 production was significantly elevated after the examination, and cortisol levels did not change across the 3 sample points.;None of the personality variables moderated the effects of examination stress on the dependent variables (i.e., at time 2).;The results of this study support earlier research linking stressful events to changes in immune functioning. However, the finding that IL-1 levels were enhanced during stress suggests that the relationship between stress and immune functioning is more complex than is commonly thought.;The absence of stress-moderating effects for each of the personality characteristics raises questions about the role of personality in stressful situations that are highly familiar to the subject.



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