What is Conditioning?
Conditioning is the process of training or accustoming a person to behave in a certain way or to accept certain circumstances. In other words, it is the reaction/ response to an object/event/ stimulus by a person which is modified by ‘learning’.
Conditioning the Immune System
In 1975, Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohen were studying taste aversion by conducting experiments on rats. The researchers had been giving rats a saccharin solution, a sweet drink which rats usually love but not in this experiment. The drink was accompanied by an injection which induced gastrointestinal upset. When the injections stopped, they found as expected that the rats had become conditioned to avoid consuming the sweet solution.
To complete the experimental protocol, they forced the rats to take the saccharin solution using eye droppers. This is where the surprise arrived, where the animals they had force-fed with saccharin solution later died. In other words, their bodies were reacting to something that wasn’t really there, just because the circumstances made them expect it.
Before this discovery, the immune system and the nervous system were thought to be completely independent. So, Ader’s theory that the two networks communicate was perceived to be far-fetched by the scientific community. Scientists were convinced that the immune system responds to physical signs of infection and injury without any help from the brain.
More about how this study was used to treat a patient with Lupus (a condition in which the immune system destroys the body’s healthy tissues) by “Training the Body into thinking It has had Medicine” on my next post.