Behavioral immune system activity predicts downregulation of chronic basal inflammation

Jeffrey Gassen, Marjorie L. Prokosch, Anastasia Makhanova, Micah J. Eimerbrink, Jordon D. White, Randi P. Proffitt Leyva, Julia L. Peterman, Sylis C. Nicolas, Tania A. Reynolds, Jon K. Maner, James K. McNulty, Lisa A. Eckel, Larissa Nikonova, Jessica F. Brinkworth, Melody D. Phillips, Joel B. Mitchell, Gary W. Boehm, Sarah E. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here, we present a mechanistically grounded theory detailing a novel function of the behavioral immune system (BIS), the psychological system that prompts pathogen avoidance behaviors. We propose that BIS activity allows the body to downregulate basal inflammation, preventing resultant oxidative damage to DNA and promoting longevity. Study 1 investigated the relationship between a trait measure of pathogen avoidance motivation and in vitro and in vivo proinflammatory cytokine production. Study 2 examined the relationship between this same predictor and DNA damage often associated with prolonged inflammation. Results revealed that greater trait pathogen avoidance motivation predicts a) lower levels of spontaneous (but not stimulated) proinflammatory cytokine release by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), b) lower plasma levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), and c) lower levels of oxidative DNA damage. Thus, the BIS may promote health by protecting the body from the deleterious effects of inflammation and oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0203961
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Behavioral immune system activity predicts downregulation of chronic basal inflammation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this