Bidirectional interaction between the central nervous system and the immune system

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

We believe that any questions regarding whether the CNS can alter immune system functions no longer remain. It can conclusively be stated that the immune system is susceptible to influences of the CNS. It remains to be determined whether all classes of lymphocytes, NK cells, macrophages, polymorphonuclear leukocytes, and other antigen-processing cells are all susceptible to CNS influences. We have presented evidence that peripheral blood lymphocytes may not reflect the immunological activity of lymphocytes within lymphatic tissue after being influenced by a stressor. Thus, all types of immunological cells must be evaluated in different organs. Whether the immune system of young and old animals respond in the same way must also be determined. The sex of the animal needs to be taken into consideration. What immune responses are important to measure? Do in vitro responses reflect the ability of an animal to resist infectious disease or susceptibility to autoimmune and malignant diseases? Certainly, absence of an immune response is detrimental to health. It must be determined whether moderately suppressed immune function in multiple compartments is as detrimental as total absence of an immune response in a single immunological compartment. The data that we have presented with respect to adjuvant arthritis indicate that an immune response in the peripheral of the animal can be modified by a stressor and influence an immunopathological process. This may indicate that the most important immune compartment to evaluate with respect to altering disease susceptibility is the peripheral blood and that lymphoid tissue may be interesting, but not clinically relevant. The reasons why the peripheral blood and lymphoid tissue differ in their immunological function following exposure to a stressor must be determined. We have reviewed information indicating that lymphoid tissue is innervated and that such innervation can modify immune function. In addition, hormones released by the CNS may alter immune function. Yet, much of this data are contradictory and whether immune enhancement or suppression occurs is not clearly defined with respect to any experimental manipulation involving denervation or the addition of hormones to in vitro cultures. Whether this reflects the age of the experimental animal, the type of immune response being measured, the adequacy of the experimental procedure, background rearing conditions of the animals, the amount of noise in the animal room, the diet of the animals, or the number of animals housed per cage all remain to be determined. Our purpose has not been to provide a comprehensive review of all of the data relating to the immune system/CNS interaction.


Published In

Crit Rev Immunol., 9, 4, 279-312.