Brain's Inflammatory Response in Overdrive May Contribute to Common Brain Disorders
WASHINGTON, DC — When the brain’s protective inflammatory response, activated by injury or disease, lasts for too long, it can contribute to debilitating mental and physical problems, according to research released today. These early findings advance knowledge about the link between brain inflammation and the progression of many common brain illnesses and disorders and suggest possible targets for future treatments. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2014, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Inflammation is a protective reaction that aids in the quick repair and regeneration of damaged brain cells. If it continues for too long, however, inflammation does more harm than good, damaging neurons and contributing to brain disorders such as depression, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of fatigue. Thus, understanding how to keep inflammation in check is a major goal of neuroscience research.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Inflammation in pregnant women due to infection or stress correlates with weaker connections between certain brain regions in their infant children (Claudia Buss, PhD, abstract 584.02, see attached summary).
- Feeding mice an inflammation-causing high-fat diet during pregnancy increases depression-like behavior in the mothers and their offspring (Staci Bilbo, PhD, abstract 545.19, see attached summary).
- A new imaging “tracer” offers clinicians a tool for following the progression of inflammation-related changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps enhancing the ability to diagnose and monitor the disease (Cynthia Lemere, PhD, abstract 385.06, see attached summary).
- A new lab technique is helping scientists better understand how inflammation leads to fatigue (Mary Harrington, PhD, abstract 545.20, see attached summary).
- Estrogen-producing cells in the brains of songbirds help inhibit inflammation, perhaps limiting neural damage after a brain injury (Colin Saldanha, PhD, abstract 640.09, see attached summary).
“The findings from these studies are helping scientists develop a deeper understanding of the crucial role that neuroinflammation plays in the progression of degenerative brain diseases,” said Margaret McCarthy, PhD, an expert in neuroendocrinology at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. “It’s an exciting and rapidly developing field of study, and one that promises to lead to new therapies for treatment and prevention.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health as well as other private and philanthropic organizations. Find out more about inflammation and its role in brain diseases at BrainFacts.org.