East Meets West: How Psychoneuroimmunology Is Curing Modern Medicine

Colleen M Doran, J.D.


Principal, Doran Law Office, Minneapolis, Minnesota USA



In 2012, the world spent 6.5 trillion dollars on health care. The following year, the Global Burden of Disease Study found that only 4% of us reported being free from health complaints. Another third struggled with more than 5 health problems. It is true that over the past 100 years western medicine’s advances in infectious disease, nutrition, and technology have contributed significantly to improved life expectancy and overall global health.  But world health statistics like these indicate that something is clearly wrong.  The emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology may help us find some answers.


Psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, is the science that refutes the concept of dualism Descartes put forward in the 17th century. Dualism, the idea that the mind and body are two distinct substances that could not exist in unity, has prevented Western Medicine from embracing the founding principles and ancient traditions that underpin its very foundation. PNI has shown us what many in Eastern cultures and traditions have always known, our mind is everywhere within the body and the brain. This research shows an abundance of previously unknown mind-body connections. This presentation will specifically view PNI through the lens of traumatic experiences.


Alongside the growth of PNI during the past 30 years, a corresponding line of research has been moving forward but has not been recognized in western biomedical research. This research has been exploring how mind-body practices like yoga, meditation, tai chi, and even neurofeedback are being used to counteract the now known biological and neurobiological effects of trauma.


While anecdotal evidence is commonplace, abundant scientific data offer support for the connection between body and mind that is often shared as a personal narrative. These studies bring the science of PNI out of the laboratory and into the clinical setting where ancient traditions can and should live side by side with modern medicine.