CiteWeb id: 20080000091

CiteWeb score: 3389

DOI: 10.1038/nrn2297

In response to a peripheral infection, innate immune cells produce pro-inflammatory cytokines that act on the brain to cause sickness behaviour. When activation of the peripheral immune system continues unabated, such as during systemic infections, cancer or autoimmune diseases, the ensuing immune signalling to the brain can lead to an exacerbation of sickness and the development of symptoms of depression in vulnerable individuals. These phenomena might account for the increased prevalence of clinical depression in physically ill people. Inflammation is therefore an important biological event that might increase the risk of major depressive episodes, much like the more traditional psychosocial factors. Anyone who has experienced a viral or bacterial infection knows what it means to feel sick. The behaviour of sick people changes dramatically; they often feel feverish and nauseated, ignore food and beverages, and lose interest in their physical and social environments. They tire easily and their sleep is often fragmented. In addition, they feel depressed and irritable, and can experience mild cognitive disorders ranging from impaired attention to difficulties in remembering recent events. Despite their negative impact on well-being, these symptoms of sickness are usually ignored. They are viewed as uncomfortable but banal components of infections 1 . Sickness is a normal response to infection, just as fear is normal in the face of a predator. It is characterized by endocrine, autonomic and behavioural changes and is triggered by soluble mediators that are produced at the site of infection by activated accessory immune cells. These mediators are known as pro-inflammatory cytokines, and include interleukin-1α and β (IL-1α and IL-1β), tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). They coordinate the local and systemic inflammatory response to microbial pathogens. However,

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