Macrophages are key players in pain and analgesia

Macrophages are found in all tissues and are critical to injury and repair. Like neurons, macrophages are plastic and acquire different phenotypes based on the external environment. There are two types of macrophages, M1 which secrete inflammatory cytokines, and M2 which secrete anti-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammatory cytokines activate … [Read more...]

Low-grade inflammation and the brain

What is inflammation? We usually talk about “inflammation” in relation to infections and injuries. When the body is infected, the immune cells recognize the ‘non-self’ molecules and produce inflammatory factors, called “cytokines”, to coordinate the fight against the infection. Cytokines signal other immune cells and bring them to the site of … [Read more...]

Bacteria directly activate sensory nerves

We know that when we are injured or have an infection, our immune system kicks into gear. This is how our body fights infection and keeps us healthy. Immune cells are also involved in helping us know that there is damage in the tissues by making it hurt. They do this by releasing a bunch of substances (called inflammatory mediators) that trigger … [Read more...]

Part two of Parallel worlds collide… and we all see stars, or astrocytes at least

Immune activation can produce some powerful and longlasting behaviour changes. Take single event learning for example (Ader and Cohen 1975) - the seminal study that  proved that the immune system response could be behaviourally conditioned. Ader and Cohen (1975)  paired sugar with an immunosuppressive agent in rats. When a foreign agent (sheep red … [Read more...]

Parallel worlds collide… and we all see stars, or astrocytes at least

Perhaps our language has always hinted at the involvement of glial cells in injury?  And, when glial cells outnumber neurons in the brain by 20 to 1, it begs the question who is really in charge of synaptic activity (should that be plasticity) in the brain? I think it is fair to say that ever since the neuronal doctrine captured the imagination … [Read more...]

Luke Parkitny talks CRPS at BiM

Luke is a PhD student at Neuroscience Research Australia researching some of the factors that play a role in the development of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Luke joins the Body in Mind team with a background of clinical practice and research in Western Australia. He has rapidly cultivated an interest in all things pain and has very … [Read more...]

Neuroimmunology for idiots. Part 3: Immune system in neuroplasticity

In this, the oddly named 4th part of this little series, I am trying to get my head around the role of cytokines in facilitating long term potentiation and nurturing neuroplasticity. The key work in this field seems to be this[1] These guys were the first to show that an inflammatory-like process, the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1, … [Read more...]

Neuroimmunology for idiots. Part 2: Immune system in learning & memory – inflammatory cytokines.

The last post discussed the role of T cells and T cell-derived IL-4, an anti-inflammatory cytokine. This post will focus on other inflammatory cytokines, in particular IL-1, IL-6 and TNF-α.  First, IL-1. Well the story is broadly pretty similar to that of T cell-derived IL-4: Take a normal mouse out of its home, put it in a different home, let’s … [Read more...]

Neuroimmunology for dummies. Part 1: Immune system in learning and memory – T cells.

A common way to investigate what role particular biological markers play is to breed (in the loosest sense of the word - ie genetically engineer) an animal that doesn’t have those biomarkers. Mice are the usual suckers.  Mice can be ‘bred’ to have no T cells (T cells are otherwise known as T lymphocytes, white blood cells that are produced … [Read more...]

Mutterings of a neurocentric. Or, neuroimmunology for dummies

I was going to call this post ‘Immune effects on thinking, memory, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis’ but I thought it sounded a bit high-brow.  In fact, for the first time in my brief bloglife I have found myself stuck on an opening, but I think I might know why. It is 5.20am, I rode my bike 50km yesterday and this morning I have a few more creaks … [Read more...]