The new findings could help understand the social behaviors of those with neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
A new study has found the immune system could directly affect our social behavior and even having a strong control on whether or not we want to socially interact with others.
The study by a team of researchers from University of Virginia School of Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, say the findings could help understand neurological diseases such as autism. The outcome of this study shows the growing realization that the body is connected in more ways than we ever imagined. Up until now, the immune system was thought to be completely separate from the brain.
“The brain and the adaptive immune system were thought to be isolated from each other, and any immune activity in the brain was perceived as sign of a pathology,” stated Dr. Jonathan Kipnis, chairman of the University of Virginia’s Department of Neuroscience and author of the study.
The team initially discovered that meningeal vessels in the brain are directly linked with the lymphatic system. Looking at mice and flies, Kipnis and his colleagues looked at interferon gammas, a particular immune molecule produced by the immune system that seemed to have an important role in social behaviors.
Produced by the immune system in the presence of bacteria, viruses or parasites, these immune molecules had an effect on the brain when they were blocked in mice – regions of the brain in the mice became hyperactive and resulted in less social interaction. Unblocking these molecules then restored the the mice’s behavior back to normal.
Dr. Kipnis’ colleague, Vladimir Litvak from the Department of Pharmacology, who also worked in the study believes this could start a deeper understanding of the social aspects of those with schizophrenia and autism.
“Our findings contribute to a deeper understanding of social dysfunction in neurological disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, and may open new avenues for therapeutic approaches.”
Details of the study were published in the journal Nature.