Does the immune system influence our social life?

The immune system, from a recent research published in the famous journal Nature, would show an unexpected interaction with our social life.

The study of human behavior is undoubtedly a very complex branch of various sciences. More disciplines have treated it like psychology, sociology, ethnology and neuroscience.

From the above study, among these sciences that have put the social behavior under the magnifying glass, immunology will also be part of it. Previously it was thought that the brain and the immune system were “isolated” from each other.

A group of researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine (UVA) have shown not only that there is a correlation between the two, but that the immune system could strongly influence social behavior.

The immune system and the brain.

The studies done on the complex human immune system have found their greatest development since the ’70s thanks to the scientist Robert Ader.

He demonstrated how he could condition the immune system of rats by showing, finally, how there was a close correlation between the body’s defenses and the brain itself.

From those first attempts to find a correlation between the two systems we have come up with the birth of a new discipline called psychoneuroimmunology. Researchers at UVA discovered connections between the vessels of the meninges and the lymphatic system.

This discovery changed the common thought that the brain had no connection, and therefore communication, with the immune system. When a pathogenic attack occurs, whether for bacteria, viruses or parasites, interferon gamma is released.

Scientists have seen how some animals (mice, rats, zebrafish) produce gamma interferon when they are in a “social” context. In the study, the scientists made this molecule have no effect on the brains of some animals, causing them to be hyperactive.

Studies have shown that animals with such “genetic modification” had a lower predisposition to social life. In contrast, once the molecule had been reintroduced, the connections in the brain returned to normal, leading back to the right social behaviors.

According to what is reported and understood by the research an inefficient or debilitated immune system, in general, could be one of the causes of certain social and relational problems.


The future of psychoneuroimmunology.

Both neuroscience and immunology have many obscure points, understanding a possible correlation between them could help to shed light on a complex system that is proving increasingly “holistic”.

The next step will also be to understand how the immune system is able to influence the brain and how.