Neuroimmunology

Neuroimmunology, the study of the interaction between our central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and our immune system. Neuroimmunology contributes to development of new pharmacological treatments for several neurological conditions. The immune system and the nervous system maintain extensive communication, including 'hardwiring' of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves to lymphoid organs. Neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, vasoactive intestinal peptide, substance P and histamine modulate immune activity. Neuroendocrine hormones such as corticotrophin-releasing factor, leptin and alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone regulate cytokine balance.

The immune system modulates brain activity, including body temperature, sleep and feeding behaviour. Molecules such as the major histocompatibility complex not only direct T cells to immunogenic molecules held in its cleft but also modulate development of neuronal connections. Neurobiologists and immunologists are exploring common ideas like the synapse to understand properties such as memory that are shared in these two systems.

 

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