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Book Forum: The Physiology of Stress   |    
Handbook of Physiology: A Critical, Comprehensive Presentation of Physiological Knowledge and Concepts, Section 7: The Endocrine System, vol. IV: Coping With the Environment: Neural and Endocrine Mechanisms
BECKY KINKEAD, Ph.D.; CHARLES B. NEMEROFF, M.D., Ph.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2003;160:602-603. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.160.3.602
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Edited by Bruce S. McEwen; section editor: H. Maurice Goodman. New York, Oxford University Press, 2001, 562 pp., $150.00.

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Coping with the environment is obviously a universally necessary skill for all organisms. How one copes with the environment affects virtually every facet of life, from general well-being and social interactions to pathology. Coping With the Environment is a propitious introduction to the discussion of biological responses to environmental challenges. This volume has contributions from leaders in the neuroendocrinology field and is suitable for readers interested in a review of neuroendocrinology as well as readers interested specifically in the issue of coping with the environment. Two points of criticism of this volume of The Endocrine System include the relative scarcity of current references and the universally unattractive figures, which are complex and poorly labeled.

This volume is composed of six sections, each addressing a different aspect of coping with the environment. Part 1 reviews the primary mediators of the coping response, including the adrenal medullary hormones, the sympathetic nervous system, catecholamines in the brain and responses to stress, the biochemistry and cell biology of corticotropin, proopiomelanocortin synthesis and cell-specific processing, and regulation and actions of the corticotropin-releasing hormone.

Part 2 contains chapters aimed at discussing fear, stress, and coping. The chapters in this section include discussions of the neural basis of defensive behavior and fearful feelings, the role of the hippocampus in the neurobiology of interpreting and responding to stressful events, the role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in chronic stress and energy balance, and adrenocortical responses to stress and their modulation in free-living vertebrates.

Part 3 is a discussion of differences over the course of life in strategies for coping with stress. Chapters included in this section discuss the development of the HPA axis and the stress response, the role of the postnatal environment in the development of individual differences in behavioral and endocrine responses to stress, and the mechanisms of glucocorticoid actions in stress and brain aging.

Part 4 examines the effect of diurnal rhythms and sleep patterns on the systems involved in coping behavior. Chapter 1 of this section reviews the roles of sleep-wake and dark-light cycles in the control of endocrine, metabolic, cardiovascular, and cognitive function. Chapter 2 scrutinizes the influence of hormones and cytokines on sleep.

Part 5 discusses how an organism’s ability or inability to cope with stress can affect the immune system. Chapters in this section include "Regional Neural Regulation of Immunity: Anatomy and Functions," "Role of Endogenous Glucocorticoids in Immune System Function: Regulation and Counterregulation," "Interactions Between the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and Immune System During Viral Infection: Pathways for Environmental Effects on Disease Expression," "Regulation of Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases," "Immunophysiology: The Interaction of Hormones, Lymphohematopoietic Cytokines and the Neuroimmune Axis," and "Environmental Factors and Disease: Stress and Cancer." Part 6 contains two chapters discussing the physiological and pathophysiological implications of social stress in mammals.

This volume of the Handbook of Physiology focuses primarily on the effect of stressors on the endocrine system, with some attention to the role of the endocrine system in regulating normal function. Some chapters begin to address the body’s reaction to the environment and how these responses help the organism "cope" with alterations in environment (both physical and psychological).

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