Life, Mind, Hormesis and Homeostatic Feedback in Illness

Life [definition]; the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. ….accessed Jan.6, 20222.

Hormesis [definition]; A low dose of a chemical agent may trigger from an organism the opposite response to a very high dose.

Illustration of how a low dose of a chemical agent may trigger from an organism the opposite response to a very high dose. Review Hormesis defined lMark P.Mattson  Ageing Research ReviewsVolume 7, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 1-7 . From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, accessed January 5, 2022.

Homeostasis [definition]; any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival. If homeostasis is successful, life continues; if unsuccessful, disaster [injury, illness, disability] or death ensues. The stability attained is actually a dynamic equilibrium, in which continuous change occurs yet relatively uniform conditions prevail. https:// accessed January 6 2022.

When homeostatic feedback mechanisms get stuck or break:

As anyone with a thermostat in their house can attest to, [ the thermostat being the favourite textbook metaphor to illustrate this self regulating homeostatic process and often portrayed as inviolable], problems with the ventilatory system of the house or with the furnace or with the thermostat itself, will produce different patterns of impaired temperature regulation [and its consequences- for example, have you ever been freezing in the basement and too hot on the third floor ? ] . The textbook never mentions mechanical or electrical or ventilatory [exchange of hot and cold air] difficulties that can occur during the course of its lifetime.

The skeletal muscles and the circulation of blood of the body are key to the regulation and production of heat inside of us, from our basement level to our top floor and I would venture a guess that the control of endogenous production of the carbon dioxide when internal fuels [glucose] are burned for energy, helps to heat our body’s core at baseline stable [more or less] temperatures necessary for optimal function of our biochemical processes from our feet and other extremities to our head.

Broken feedback mechanisms or mechanical or electrical problems affecting homeostatic feedback will affect our “dynamic internal equilibrium” which will result in “nonspecific symptoms and signs [an example is * sickness behavior . Measuring the 4 vital signs [RR,HR,BP,Body Temp.] is a fast and easy and noninvasive way to see if the circulatory feedback mechanisms ensuring relatively uniform internal conditions are still working optimally or not. Measuring these 4 vital signs will signal normal physiological function or pathophysiological function requiring further investigation and correction.. [which in the 21st century, is now possible thanks to technological medical advances and pharmaceutical advances]. Respiratory rate can be carefully measured manually with a stopwatch. It is a very important physical sign to check because it can lead to questions regarding normal PC02/02 ratio, air exchange rate, pH [necessary for enzymes to work optimally] and other chemical issues. Baseline respiratory rate at rest is largely unconscious and involuntary and can be counted again and again as the person lies down and relaxes [with eyes open] thinking of something pleasant or listening to music [like a relaxing hopeful ballad]. * sickness behavior [definiton]: The most commonly recognized behavioral patterns of animals and people at the onset of febrile infectious diseases are lethargy, depression, anorexia, and reduction in grooming. Findings from recent lines of research are reviewed to formulate the perspective that the behavior of sick animals and people is not a maladaptive response or the effect of debilitation, but rather an organized, evolved behavioral strategy to facilitate the role of fever in combating viral and bacterial infections. Biological basis of the behavior of sick animals Benjamin L.Hart Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews Volume 12, Issue 2, Summer 1988, Pages 123-137

Complicating the picture of sickness behaviours is the observation that people can become visibly sick yet not have a fever; for example children respond to infection with fever more often than adults do to the same virus. The * common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract) and can make you feel and look quite sick for days [with a drippy nose, a cough, nausea, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, body aches and generally feeling unwell ] often without fever. Yet the common cold is a type of viral infection. * The common cold [definition] accessed January 6 2022.

And fever is only one of the body’s defences against infection and inflammation and injury. And we are still speculating on the many ways that animals combat infection, depending on the type of infection and the baseline health and nutritional status of the animal and the adaptive thermoregular response most likely to succeed, and this is assuming that the thermoregulatory responses are working correctly and that these responses are not damaged.


Entering both the old dispute (whether fever is adaptive or maladaptive) and its more recent modification (whether hypothermia is protective or detrimental in systemic inflammation), we suggest a new solution. We hypothesize that fever and hypothermia represent two different strategies of fighting systemic inflammation, each developed as an adaptive response to certain conditions, and each beneficial under these conditions. The antimicrobial and immunostimulating benefits of a high body temperature could be easily offset by its high energy cost. Fever, therefore, is protective only when there is no immediate threat of a substantial energy deficit. Hypothermia, on the other hand, constitutes a response aimed at energy conservation and, as such, is beneficial exactly under the conditions of a substantial energy deficit. The two thermoregulatory responses represent two complementary strategies of survival in systemic inflammation: fever ensures the active attack against the pathogen; hypothermia secures the defense of the host’s vital systems. The importance of each response’s contribution to the whole campaign depends on the severity of the pathogenic insult, premorbid pathology, and current conditions (stress, nutrition, ambient temperature, etc.). Med Hypotheses 1998 Mar;50(3):219-26. doi: 10.1016/s0306-9877(98)90022-6. Fever and hypothermia: two adaptive thermoregulatory responses to systemic inflammation. A A Romanovsky M Székely

When inflammation and infection make a person sick, [with or without fever] they often feel that their mind is affected, in varying degrees. People colloquially refer to this as “brain fog” or muddled thinking.

“Upper respiratory tract illnesses – a.k.a. sinus colds – cause muddled thinking on par with the cognitive effects of drinking alcohol or getting a bad night’s sleep, said Andrew Smith, a health psychologist at Cardiff University in Wales who has researched cognitive changes related to seasonal colds for 30 years.

Reaction time and manual dexterity involved in everyday tasks, such as driving, “are likely to be impaired when you have a cold,” he said: “It can have a big effect.”

Colds blunt mental sharpness in other ways, too. In a 2012 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Smith recruited 198 healthy men and women to do baseline cognitive tests. Within a few months, one-third came back to the lab with head colds, while the rest served as healthy controls in a second round of tests.

Compared with healthy participants and their own previous scores, those with colds took more time to learn new things, perform verbal reasoning tasks (a test of working memory) and retrieve information from their general knowledge banks. The lower scores were unrelated to the severity of their symptoms, their moods or how many hours they’d slept, the study found. (Researchers used symptoms checklists to rule out flu.)

The mental haze that comes with a head cold lasts longer than you’d think.

Cognitive impairments start in the incubation period – 24 to 48 hours before other cold symptoms strike – and persist for a couple of days after the coughing and sneezing stop. The cognitive effects are more severe with influenza, Smith said. Even after flu sufferers return to work, “they can be impaired for a couple of weeks afterwards.”

These short-term declines stem from temporary changes in the brain rather than cold or flu symptoms themselves, he said. Seasonal viruses reduce mental alertness by interfering with neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline, associated with reaction times.

At a system-wide level, colds and flu trigger the body’s attack mode, causing inflammation as the body works harder than usual to fend off illness. Of all the immunological changes involved in the cognitive effects of seasonal illnesses, he said, “inflammation is a key one.” ” Why ‘brain fog’ from the common cold isn’t all in your head ADRIANA BARTON HEALTH REPORTER PUBLISHED  NOVEMBER 2, 2017

And, just as there are different levels of pain that people experience, there are different levels of brain fog, which can also be described along a range from 1 to 10, 10 being a maximal level of pain or of brain fog.

To be continued…….


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