Psychoneuroimmunology, Anxiety, and Inflammation

The emerging discipline of psychoneuroimmunology focuses on the interactions and cross talk among the immune system, the central nervous system (CNS), and behavior. For example, cytokines in the CNS have critical functions that can influence behavior. Such effects may result from the regulation of neurotransmitter metabolism, neuroendocrine activities, as well as synaptic plasticity (Salim et al., 2012).

In addition, such functional regulations may also affect the neural circuitry of mood. The dysregulation of the cytokine signaling may lead to many psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, cognitive dysfunction, and other behavioral disorders (Salim et al., 2012).

For example, depression has been closely related to inflammatory responses in which cytokines play important roles. Another example is mental stress that can affect the generation of cytokines, which in turn serve as mediators of psychological wellbeing.

Furthermore, cytokines, neuroinflammation, and socioeconomic factors have been found critical in anxiety disorders. Many models have been proposed for illustrating such interactions. For example, the “oxidative stress theory” that may serve as a “sensor of distress” has been suggested for explaining the complex mechanisms of anxiety (Salim et al., 2012).

In order to discover targets for effective prevention and interventions for neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety, it is essential to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the interactions between the immune function, the brain, and behavior. More studies are especially needed to understand the connections among mental disorders and inflammation.

References:

Salim S, Chugh G, Asghar M. Inflammation in anxiety. Adv Protein Chem Struct Biol. 2012;88:1-25. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-398314-5.00001-5.

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