Abstract: From early in the AIDS epidemic, stress (and particularly socially-induced stress) has been suggested as contributing negatively to the progress of the disease. We have been exploring the role of social stress in an animal model of AIDS. Social stress does indeed result in altered physiological functioning and patterns of gene expression, especially in lymphoid tissue, but we’ve also found that individuals differ in their ability to cope with social stress. The principal individual difference factor that we have been exploring is Sociability, a major personality dimension in human and nonhuman primates that represents a tendency to affiliate. Animals low in Sociability seem to have patterns of innervation of lymphoid tissue that are permissive for viral growth and reproduction. Not surprisingly, it is these animals that appear to be most at-risk in socially stressful circumstances. Our data suggest that health consequences of social stress are influenced by characteristics of the individual, and that more attention should be paid to person-by-situation interactions in understanding health and disease.
Bio: John Capitanio is a Research Psychologist in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis, and a Staff Scientist at the California National Primate Research Center. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Psychology from the University of California at Davis in 1982, and was a postdoctoral researcher in Developmental Psychobiology in the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He is a Past-President of the American Society of Primatologists, a recipient of the Patricia R. Barchas Award in Sociophysiology from the American Psychosomatic Society, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, and in 2012, Dr. Capitanio received the Distinguished Primatologist Award from the American Society of Primatologists. Dr. Capitanio’s research interests are focused on the causes and consequences of individual differences in primate biobehavioral organization, particularly with respect to health-related outcomes.