The brain-immune connection


In what has been called a “stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching,” researchers at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine have found that the brain is directly connected to the immune system. This means, when it comes to strategies to promote health and longevity, that what’s good for your brain is also good for your immune system.

Metaphorically, the brain and the immune system have their hands shoved so deeply in each other’s pockets that it’s difficult to tell which is which. Lymph vessels have been found in the meninges—the three membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord.

According to Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in the University of Virginia’s department of neuroscience, “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. . . . We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role. . . . In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain. We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.”

An array of neurological diseases—from autism to multiple sclerosis—must be reconsidered in light of the presence of something science didn’t know about or even believe existed. Watch for more emerging research in this fascinating area.

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