Brain Inflammation May Cause Autoimmune Disease Stress

When your mouth is dry, your joints are stiff, or your heart is inflamed because your immune system is attacking your own body, chances are you’re suffering from a little stress. A recent study shows that there may be physiological reasons why patients with autoimmune diseases experience increased levels of anxiety.

Scientists at the City University of New York Medical School, Columbia University, and the University of Messina suggest it may be brain inflammation that leads to elevated stress in patients with autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome.

After modeling these diseases in a population of mice by introducing cytokine B-cell activating factor (BAFF), the research group examined their emotional behavior. They also checked for brain inflammation, stress-induced c-Fos protein, and the proliferation of progenitor cells in the hippocampus, using Neurolucida Explorer.

They found that the older mice produced anxiety-like characteristics associated with brain inflammation. These anxious mice responded to mild stress-inducing stimuli by displaying abnormal activity within the limbic system — the region of the brain that controls basic emotions.

During the course of the study, Neurolucida Explorer was used to calculate dendritic length. “I was very pleased with Neurolucida Explorer,” said Dr. Fortunato Battaglia. “I find the software very friendly and the quantitative data were crucial for our work. I am looking forward to using it again in future experiments.”

Read the free abstract or download the complete paper “Reduced Adult Neurogenesis and Altered Emotional Behaviors in Autoimmune-Prone B-Cell Activating Factor Transgenic Mice” at Biological Psychiatry.

Rosalia Crupi, Marco Cambiaghi, Linda Spatz, Rene Hen, Mitchell Thorn, Eitan Friedman, Giuseppe Vita, Fortunato Battaglia, “Reduced Adult Neurogenesis and Altered Emotional Behaviors in Autoimmune-Prone B-Cell Activating Factor Transgenic Mice” (Biological Psychiatry (2010) 67 6, 558-566)

{Illustration of a human brain and skull licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license}