Immune System Influences Our Personality And Social Behavior, Says Study

Posted: Jul 16 2016, 7:49am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 17 2016, 9:36pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Immune System Influences Our Personality and Social Behavior, Says Study
Credit: University of Virginia

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New research suggests that our immune system can play an unexpected yet vital role in our social life.

For the first time, researchers have discovered a unique link between immune system and social behavior. They suggest the processes of the body which protects us from infections and toxins can have a direct impact on our social interactions too.

A combined team of researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School has demonstrated that the immune system can control our mind and shapes our social behavior and blocking a single type of immune molecule can lead to hyperactivation and abnormal behavior. The condition was reversed once the molecule was restored.

Though the experiment was conducted on lab mice, the discovery has implications for treating neurological diseases such as autism and schizophrenia in humans.

“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. And now, not only are we showing that they are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens,” said Jonathan Kipnis from UVA’s Department of Neuroscience.

“It’s crazy, but maybe we are just multicellular battlefields for two ancient forces: pathogens and the immune system. Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system.”

Researchers have been working to find a direct link between the two processes for some time, but it was not until now that they have found a definite connection between immune system and social interactions. The discovery has opened an entirely new avenue in understanding socialization and complications associated with it and how it can be directed or fixed by altering immune system.

A specific immune molecule, called interferon gamma, is believed to be responsible for influencing social behavior in various organisms including fish, flies and rodents. Researchers have found if the signaling pathway of interferon gamma is chocked, it will make animals less social. However, they will start to interact normally if signals are opened again.

Researchers have developed and applied a novel computational approach to investigate the complex interactions within the two biological systems which can also use be used for looking at the impact of various immune components on brain dysfunctions.

"Immune molecules are actually defining how the brain is functioning. So, what is the overall impact of the immune system on our brain development and function?" said Kipnis. “I think the philosophical aspects of this work are very interesting, but it also has potentially very important clinical implications.”

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