A new study found a connection between the functioning of the immune system and diseases that affect social behavior, such as autism and schizophrenia.
The experiments had been performed on different species of animals and insects and focused on neurological diseases that can change behavior.
The research was conducted by the researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in collaboration with the University of Virginia.
The Immune System Signals in the Brain
The authors of the research found that a cytokine secreted by T lymphocytes could have a role in enhancing social brain functions. The findings help in understanding the social dysfunction associated with neurological disorders, especially autism, and schizophrenia.
The scientists started with a new model of systemic biology and focused on the dialogue between the immune system and brain functions. They identified immune signaling signatures and analyzed their presence in brain transcriptomes.
The dialogue between the immune signals and social brain functions had been observed in rodents, flies, and fish. The results show that there is an evolutionary link between social behavior and an efficient immunity response.
One of the experiments involved blocking the cytokine in mice. The rodents became hyperactive and displayed inappropriate social behavior.
The Implications of the Findings
The researchers conclude that the brain and the immune system are not isolated. Moreover, the brain perceives the activation of the immune system as a sign of disease.
Therefore, it seems that some social behaviors could be explained by an immunity response to pathogens. These reactions that affect the interactions of individuals inside the community may be caused by evolutionary traits that were developed in time as a part of disease management.
The authors of the study explain that the dialogue between the immunity system and the functioning of the brain could be responsible for the inappropriate social behaviors exhibited by patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders.
The immune system signals the brain that the organism is affected by a pathogen, and the brain interprets the message and provokes social behaviors that can draw the attention towards the individual, as a way of asking for help.
The study is the first one to create a platform that can be used to investigate the connection between the immunity system and the functioning of the brain. The findings identify the specific elements that are responsible for this dialogue. Therefore, other scientists are offered the chance to investigate new consequences of the communication between the brain and the physical response to disease.
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