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.

Explore further: Decreased activity of basal ganglia is the main cause of abnormal muscle constrictions in dystonia

Related Stories

Unconscious learning uses old parts of the brain

April 6, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet provides evidence that basic human learning systems use areas of the brain that also exist in the most primitive vertebrates, such as ...

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

Psychosis associated with low levels of physical activity

August 25, 2016

A large international study of more than 200,000 people in nearly 50 countries has revealed that people with psychosis engage in low levels of physical activity, and men with psychosis are over two times more likely to miss ...

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.