A recent study revealed that the immune system sometimes acts like the brain. Even though we like to think of our personality and behaviors as something we control, latest research supports the idea that we do not have complete control. Instead, our personality may be influenced by something more surprising: the immune system.
An animal study published in Nature by experts at the Virginia University School of Medicine has shown that the immune system directly influences social behavior in animals. According to the press release, mice interaction had changed completely, as a result of switching off an immune molecule – called interferon gamma. This molecule is generally produced by the immune system to fight bacteria, viruses or parasites.
By blocking the molecule, the brain of the mice entered high-activity mode, and the rodents became less interested in interacting with each other. Once the molecule was switched back on, the brains were restored back to the usual state and social activity resumed.
Scientists now believe “we are multicellular battlefields for two forces: the immune system and pathogens.” This led them to believe that some of our personality traits may also be dictated by the immune system.
Until recently, popular belief among experts was that the brain and immune system did not have the ability to communicate, because of the blood-rain barrier.
However, in 2015, it was discovered that meningeal blood vessels link the brain with the lymphatic system, enabling interaction between the two systems. This was a scientific premiere for such interaction, previously deemed impossible.
Any immune activity in the brain was perceived as a sign of pathology. Now, scientists believe that they are closely interacting, and even some of our behavior trait have evolved as an immunologic response to pathogens.
Interestingly, this connection between the brain and the immune system may offer new clues about conditions such as depression, autism, and schizophrenia. The immune system may play a role in the development of these conditions.
However, before jumping to too many conclusions, we should note that further research is needed. And that the interaction effect was only demonstrated in the brain of mice, so far. In future, the new findings may generate new treatments for people with mental disorders.
Image Source – Wikipedia