The Immune System and the Developing Brain

The Immune System and the Developing Brain

Jaclyn Schwarz, Staci D. Bilbo
ISBN: 9781615043514 | PDF ISBN: 9781615043521
Copyright © 2011 | 128 Pages | Publication Date: 01/01/2011

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The developing brain is exquisitely sensitive to both endogenous and exogenous signals which direct or significantly alter the developmental trajectory of cells, neural circuits, and associated behavioral outcomes for the life of the individual. Contrary to initial dogma that the brain is one of the few organs within the body that is immune-privileged, evidence indicates that the immune system has a critical role in brain function during development as well as during sickness and health in adulthood. Microglia are the primary immune cells within the brain, and they are in constant communication with the peripheral immune system and surrounding cell types within the brain. We describe the important role of the immune system, including microglia, during brain development, and discuss some of the many ways in which immune activation during early brain development can affect the later-life outcomes of neural function, immune function, and cognition. Growing evidence indicates that there is a strong link between many neuropsychiatric disorders and immune dysfunction, with a distinct etiology in neurodevelopment. Thus, understanding the role of the immune system and immune activation during the critical period of brain development is a necessary step toward understanding the potential origins of these devastating disorders.

Table of Contents

The Immune Response
Brain-Immune Communication
Microglia Are Immune Cells of the Brain
The Functional Role of Microglia and Immune Molecules in Neurodevelopment
Early-Life Programming of Brain and Behavior: A Critical Role for the Immune System
Commonly Used Models of Early Life Immune Activation in the Rodent
Early Life Immune Activation and Cognitive Impairment in Adulthood
Mechanisms Underlying the Enduring Changes in Neuroimmune Function Caused by Early Life Infection
Toll-Like Receptors and Immune Activation During Early Brain Development
Environmental Triggers of TLR Activation: Long-Term Programming of Brain and Behavior
Future Directions to Understanding Immune Function and Brain Development

About the Author(s)

Jaclyn Schwarz, University of Delaware
Jaclyn M. Schwarz is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University in the lab of Dr. Staci D. Bilbo. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Boston College in 2002, during which time she began her research career investigating the neural circuits underlying maternal behavior with Dr. Michael Numan. In 2008, she received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she studied the mechanisms by which estradiol establishes the synaptic patterning within sexually dimorphic regions of the hypothalamus with Dr. Margaret M. McCarthy. She is currently studying the role of the neuroimmune system in determining an individual's risk or resilience to developing later-life cognitive disorders, in particular, the role of glia in addictive processes. Her general interests include understanding the interactions of the endocrine and immune system within the brain and how these interactions can affect cognition, motivation, and other associated behaviors. She also has a long-standing interest in the physiological differences between males and females and how sex affects neural function and behavior. She is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society, and the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences.

Staci D. Bilbo, Duke University and Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS)
Staci D. Bilbo is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998, and a Ph.D. in Psychological and Brain Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 2003. She then spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado at Boulder, before joining the faculty at Duke University in 2007. Her research is broadly focused on the mechanisms by which the immune and endocrine systems interact with the brain to impact health and behavior. Her current research program explores the mechanisms by which innate central nervous system immune cells, primarily microglia, and their products such as cytokine and chemokine expression, influence both normal and pathological brain development, and the consequences for behavioral and health outcomes later in life, including cognition, affect, and addiction. Her lab is currently exploring the consequences of diverse early life events which impact the immune system and thus neural and behavioral development, including infection, stress, environmental toxins, drugs of abuse, and maternal obesity. Dr. Bilbo is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology and is on the Board of Directors for the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society. She currently serves on the Editorial Board for Brain, Behavior & Immunity, and has guest edited for Hormones and Behavior.

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