Biomedical Cybernetics

The term allostasis denotes long-term adaptation processes, by which the organism maintains homeostasis in the context of chronic stressor load. This ensures survival, but also increases waste and ageing (allostatic load).

Allostasis results from a directed change in the parameters of affected information processing structures. Consequently, beneficial alterations in the behaviour of the respective system ensue, but in the long-term also setpoint diseases.

The term was first coined by Sterling and Eyer in order to sharpen the concept of stress response.

Examples for allostatic reactions are

  • Increased secretion of glucocorticoids in long-term stress situations
  • Hyperdeiodation (hyperdeiodination) and hypodeiodation (hypodeiodination) leading to central and peripheral components, respectively, of non-thyroidal illness syndrome
  • Incomplete compensatory increase of beta-cell function in the situation of insulin resistance


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  • McEwen BS. Physiology and neurobiology of stress and adaptation: central role of the brain. Physiol Rev. 2007 Jul;87(3):873-904. Review. PubMed PMID 17615391.
  • Michael Stumvoll, P. Antonio Tataranni, Norbert Stefan, Barbora Vozarova and Clifton Bogardus. Glucose Allostasis. Diabetes 52:903-909, 2003. PMID 12663459
  • Sterling P, Eyer J. Allostasis: a new paradigm to explain arousal pathology. In: Handbook of Life Stress, Cognition and Health, edited by Fisher S, Reason J. New York: Wiley, 1988, p. 629–649.