When we get hurt or fall sick, our body has a brilliant system to help us heal. It’s like an internal army called the immune system.
This army fights off bad stuff like germs that cause diseases.
But did you know, our brain and this army talk to each other? They work together to help our bodies recover.
This is what a team of scientists from Institut Pasteur, CNRS, and Inserm discovered recently. They found a special connection or ‘circuit’ between the brain and the immune system.
The ‘Sickness Behavior’: What Happens When We Fall Ill
Think about when you catch a cold. You might feel tired, lose your appetite, and want to avoid people. That’s because when we get sick, our brain tells our body to act in a certain way.
Scientists call this “sickness behavior”. The brain does this to help our body focus all its energy on getting better. It’s like the general in the battlefield directing the soldiers where to go and what to do.
The brain does this with the help of a special area called the ‘vagal complex’. This part of the brain can figure out if there’s inflammation, which is a sign of infection or injury, in our body.
When it senses inflammation, it sends signals to another part of the brain, the ‘parabrachial nucleus’. This part also gets information about pain and unpleasant memories.
A Chain of Commands: Brain Directing the Immune Response
After getting the information from the vagal complex, the parabrachial nucleus gives commands to another area of the brain called the ‘hypothalamus’.
As a result, the hypothalamus increases the amount of a special hormone called ‘cortisone’ in our body. This hormone has the power to reduce inflammation.
The scientists studied this process using advanced methods. They found that this chain of commands could control the production of white blood cells, the soldiers of our immune system.
Gérard Eberl, one of the scientists, said that this research shows how powerful our brain is. Just by its activity alone, the brain can control how our immune system fights infection or heals a wound.
What Does This Discovery Mean?
This finding is a big deal for scientists. It’s like finding a treasure map that leads to a lot of other treasures.
With this map, they can understand better how inflammation affects our brain and mood. They can also learn more about how it’s linked to certain diseases that harm the brain.
Moreover, since the parabrachial nucleus is also involved in remembering unpleasant experiences, it can help the body avoid threats in the future.
Imagine if your body could remember how it fought off a disease and use that knowledge to do it again if the same disease comes back. That’s a powerful weapon for our immune system.
In short, this discovery is like finding a new language – the language the brain and immune system use to talk to each other.
This could lead to a better understanding of our body, helping us keep it healthy and fight off diseases better.
If you care about brain health, please read studies about inflammation that may actually slow down cognitive decline in older people, and low vitamin D may speed up cognitive decline.
The study was published in Neuron.
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