Uncovering the source of inflammatory malaise

October 22, 2012
Uncovering the source of inflammatory malaise

(Medical Xpress)—A study conducted by researchers at Emory indicates that inflammation targets a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, causing symptoms of depression and fatigue. The study was recently reported in the October edition of Archives of General Psychiatry.

These findings also help explain the connection between inflammation and depression because alterations in basal ganglia function are reliably found in .

"The basal ganglia are responsible for getting us motivated and moving," says Andrew H. Miller, MD, senior author for the study and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

 "When inflammation is excessive or persistent, it can lead to chronic changes in behavior, including feeling run down and apathetic.  These symptoms are classic for the basal ganglia."

The study used brain imaging to examine people receiving the inflammation-causing drug interferon-alpha for the treatment of hepatitis C. Many individuals who receive interferon-alpha for therapy become depressed, and this was one of the first clues that inflammation may cause depression.

The investigators also found that the major chemical that drives the basal ganglia, called dopamine, was disrupted by inflammation. In fact, according to Miller "the brain acted as if it was starved for dopamine." Dopamine is the chemical released when we experience something that makes us happy or excited, and a decrease in dopamine can lead to depression.

Further research on how inflammation leads to impaired dopamine function may lead to new treatments for depression and fatigue in individuals with high inflammation.

Related Stories

Targeting inflammation to treat depression

September 3, 2012

Researchers at Emory University have found that a medication that inhibits inflammation may offer new hope for people with difficult-to-treat depression. The study was published Sept. 3 in the online version of Archives of ...

Recommended for you

How language gives your brain a break

August 3, 2015

Here's a quick task: Take a look at the sentences below and decide which is the most effective. (1) "John threw out the old trash sitting in the kitchen." (2) "John threw the old trash sitting in the kitchen out."

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

July 27, 2015

One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected ...

How does color blindness affect color preferences?

July 21, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—Dichromacy is a color vision defect in which one of the three types of cone photoreceptors is missing. The condition is hereditary and sex-linked, mostly affecting males. Although researchers have explored ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.