Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2023

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience


Psychological Sciences


Dr. Elisabeth Walcott


The beliefs, emotions, and experiences that constitute a mindset shape numerous aspects of one’s reality, but in particular, health. Health is defined by not only the physical state of one’s body, but also the content of one’s mind. The integration of the mind and body is often associated with naturopathic medicines or pseudoscience, and thus is usually left out of Western medicinal practices. This review aims to demystify the mind-body connection in health and wellness by introducing it within an empirical, neuroscientific landscape. This research supports the hypothesis that mind over matter rings true even at the biochemical level. Activation of the immune system and the autonomic nervous system as well as changes in gene expression and connections between neurons, among many other things, modulate the body’s physical responses to mindsets. Concepts like stress, somatization, mind-body therapies, and the placebo effect are discussed in relation to their neuroscientific mechanisms and resulting effects on bodily health. This review finds that many of these concepts share overlapping biochemical mechanisms that turn positive thoughts into healthier bodies, and vice versa; this research elevates the status of mindsets as powerful determinants of health that should be more heavily prioritized in Western medicine.