Study: Effects of the immune system on our social skills

Study: Effects of the immune system on our social skills

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Our immune system influences social behavior and neurological diseases
Is there a link between our immune system and social deficits? Researchers have now found that a poorly functioning immune system can be responsible for social deficits in neurological diseases such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.

Scientists from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Virginia found in their new study that our immune system can affect our social behavior. The results could contribute to a deeper understanding of social dysfunction in autism and schizophrenia. The doctors published the results of their new study in the journal "Nature".

Signaling the immune system directly affects social behavior
The team of experts developed and used a novel systems biology approach that examined the complex dialogue between the signaling of the immune system and brain functions. The scientists were able to determine that the signaling of the immune system directly influenced the social behavior of mice and other experimental animals.

New method improves understanding
The novel biological approach now makes it possible to better understand the complex dialogue between our immune system and our brain, says Yang Xu from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The researchers were able to use the new method to analyze signatures of canonical immune signals. The doctors discovered a hidden connection between immune signaling and social functions of the brain.

Interferon gamma (IFN-γ) promotes the social functions of the brain
A certain substance seemed to play an unexpectedly important role in this connection, the glycoprotein called interferon gamma (IFN-γ) is secreted by the immune cells and seems to promote the social functions of the brain.

Blocking IFN-γ causes hyperactivity and atypical social behavior
If the IFN-γ protein is blocked in the brains of mice, these animals become hyperactive and show atypical social behavior. Restoring the so-called IFN-γ protein causes brain activity and social behavior to normalize again, the experts say. The results could open up new therapeutic approaches in the future to treat diseases such as autsimus and schizophrenia, explains Dr. Vladimir Litvak from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The brain and immune system do not work separately
For a long time it was assumed that our brain and the so-called adaptive immune system act separately from one another, the doctors explain. The new results not only show a close interaction, but some of our behaviors may have developed as a response of the immune system to various pathogens, explains Jonathan Kipnis from the University of Virginia.

New technology opens up completely new investigation methods
I firmly believe that someone could use our new technology as a template to study the involvement of different immune components in different brain disorders, adds Dr. Litvak added. (as)

Author and source information

Video: Immune System: Innate and Adaptive Immunity Explained (June 2022).