Newswise — New York, NY (October 20, 2021) – Have you ever experienced a stressful time in your life and then caught a cold, or wondered why you feel sad and depressed when you’re sick? It turns out that it’s not all in your head.

Recent research spanning the fields of neuroscience and immunology suggests that when the brain senses a threat in the environment—whether it be physical, psychological, or social—it sends signals via a complex network of peripheral nerves that mobilize the immune system, readying it to protect us from injury. While critical for survival, when this brain-mediated activation of the immune system is excessive and prolonged, it can lead to or aggravate a variety of illnesses including depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dermatitis, among many others.

To harness a deeper understanding of how these connections between the brain and peripheral organ systems can affect a person’s health, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has launched the Brain and Body Research Center. Under the direction of Scott J. Russo, PhD, Mount Sinai Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Affective Neuroscience at Mount Sinai, the Brain and Body Research Center brings together researchers from across multiple departments, centers, and institutes within the Mount Sinai Health System including the Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Institute; the Cardiovascular Research Institute; the Departments of Dermatology, Neurology, and Psychiatry; the Depression and Anxiety Center for Discovery and Treatment; The Friedman Brain Institute; the Mount Sinai Bone Program; the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience; and the Precision Immunology Institute.

“Researchers within our Mount Sinai Health System are already conducting groundbreaking work into the bidirectional connections between the brain and body and are supported by a diverse portfolio of National Institutes of Health grants, which allow us to tap into the broad range of expertise that spans many scientific and medical disciplines on our campuses,” said Dr. Russo. “Through the Center, an intentional and pointed multidisciplinary approach will influence research areas to collaborate in a meaningful way to drive breakthroughs in this emerging field of study.”

Like the brain-body connection, the Center’s overall strategy is also bidirectional: research teams perform trials in patients to identify disease mechanisms and then use preclinical models to dissect the complex ways in which the brain and body interact with one another. These insights are then brought back to patients to perform cutting-edge clinical trials for development of novel, precision treatments targeted to the right individuals. 

The interactions between the nervous system and immune system are representative of the brain’s reciprocal connections with all other organs in the body. For example, the food we eat affects the gut microbiome, which affects both the immune and nervous systems. Additionally, stress-related illnesses like major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders are leading causes of disability throughout the world. Both are highly prevalent in patients with cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, dermatitis, and diabetes, and can aggravate symptoms.

“Mount Sinai is at the forefront of this burgeoning field of biomedical research and clinical medicine,” said Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs, Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience, and Director of The Friedman Brain Institute. “Our researchers bring decades of research and expertise in their respective specialties to this intensely collaborative effort, enabling the Brain and Body Research Center to drive the mission of harnessing brain-body connections to conquer the most impactful diseases of our time.”

For specific details on the Center’s current research projects, please visit:

About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. We advance medicine and health through unrivaled education and translational research and discovery to deliver care that is the safest, highest-quality, most accessible and equitable, and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 free-standing joint-venture centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked in U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the top 20 U.S. hospitals and among the top in the nation by specialty: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Urology, and Rehabilitation. Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital is ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” among the country’s best in four out of 10 pediatric specialties. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked among the Top 20 nationally for ophthalmology. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools," aligned with a U.S. News & World Report "Honor Roll" Hospital, and No. 14 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding. Newsweek’s “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York and top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside as top 20 globally, and “The World’s Best Specialized Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Heart as No. 1 in New York and No. 5 globally and the Division of Gastroenterology as No. 5 globally. For more information, visit or find Mount Sinai on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.Gastroenter