Researchers Find Body-Mind Link Between the Brain & Immune System

Leona Dawson Health, Stress

Your immune system responds to life.

puzzleIt responds to your interactions, physical, emotional and psychological, with the environment. It responds to real and perceived threats. That’s right. Your immune system responds even if the threat is imagined. Each of us knows this – how our heart can race when we think we think see a spider only to notice a few seconds later that is some fluff on the floor. We know this when we become aware our breathing has become shallow and our shoulders are tense when we have an imaginary future argument or a meeting we’d rather not attend – letting the whole scene and all the feelings that arise roll around in minds – and through our body. Stress hormones get released. Our gut contracts. Muscles tense. Our immune system responds. More stress than is healthy creates a chronic immune response. Now this can be mapped. This is why changing how we think, adapting and updating old patterns and beliefs is so important. What was the best we could do as children responding to our environment, when our mental maps are laid down, might not be so helpful as adults.

Hypnotherapy works with ‘how’ we run our patterns and when we know ‘how’ we can change them.

It works with how our mind tracks and makes meaning out of what is going on around us and opens the conscious and unconscious mind to other possibilities. It gives you a chance to change how you respond to the world. It can help you release the grip of addiction, or anger, or learned helplessness, or anxiety or depression. It can help your body let go of physical symptoms that are underpinned by emotional and immunological responses to stress, both current stress and stress that has been lodged in your body for many years and kept alive through memories and repetitious patterns.

Researchers Find Missing Link Between the Brain & Immune System

from: Neuroscience News June 1, 2015 Featured, Neuroscience

This discovery had implications profound for neurological diseases from autism to Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis.

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?’ now we can approach this mechanistically. Because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”

“We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role,” Kipnis said. “Hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component.”

Kevin Lee, PhD, chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, described his reaction to the discovery by Kipnis’ lab:

“The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks.”

There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation – and they’ve done many studies since then to bolster the finding – that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”

Even Kipnis was skeptical initially. “I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” he said. “I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”

The discovery was made possible by the work of Antoine Louveau, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Kipnis’ lab. The vessels were detected after Louveau developed a method to mount a mouse’s meninges – the membranes covering the brain – on a single slide so that they could be examined as a whole. “It was fairly easy, actually,” he said. “There was one trick: We fixed the meninges within the skullcap, so that the tissue is secured in its physiological condition, and then we dissected it. If we had done it the other way around, it wouldn’t have worked.”

new-lymphatic-system-mapAfter noticing vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells on his slides, he tested for lymphatic vessels and there they were. The impossible existed. The soft-spoken Louveau recalled the moment: “I called Jony [Kipnis] to the microscope and I said, ‘I think we have something.’”

This shows the maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA’s discovery.
Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA’s discovery. Image credit: University of Virginia Health System.
As to how the brain’s lymphatic vessels managed to escape notice all this time, Kipnis described them as “very well hidden” and noted that they follow a major blood vessel down into the sinuses, an area difficult to image. “It’s so close to the blood vessel, you just miss it,” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re after, you just miss it.”

“Live imaging of these vessels was crucial to demonstrate their function, and it would not be possible without collaboration with Tajie Harris,” Kipnis noted. Harris, a PhD, is an assistant professor of neuroscience and a member of the BIG center. Kipnis also saluted the “phenomenal” surgical skills of Igor Smirnov, a research associate in the Kipnis lab whose work was critical to the imaging success of the study.

Alzheimer’s, Autism, MS and Beyond

The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels raises a tremendous number of questions that now need answers, both about the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it. For example, take Alzheimer’s disease. “In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain,” Kipnis said. “We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.” He noted that the vessels look different with age, so the role they play in aging is another avenue to explore. And there’s an enormous array of other neurological diseases, from autism to multiple sclerosis, that must be reconsidered in light of the presence of something science insisted did not exist.

About this neuroscience research
The findings have been published online by the prestigious journal Nature and will appear in a forthcoming print edition. The article was authored by Louveau, Smirnov, Timothy J. Keyes, Jacob D. Eccles, Sherin J. Rouhani, J. David Peske, Noel C. Derecki, David Castle, James W. Mandell, Lee, Harris and Kipnis.

Funding: The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants R01AG034113 and R01NS061973. Louveau was a fellow of Fondation pour la Recherche Medicale.

Source: Debra Kain – University of Virginia Health System
Image Source: The image is credited to the University of Virginia Health System
Original Research: Abstract for “Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels” by Antoine Louveau, Igor Smirnov, Timothy J. Keyes, Jacob D. Eccles, Sherin J. Rouhani, J. David Peske, Noel C. Derecki, David Castle, James W. Mandell, Kevin S. Lee, Tajie H. Harris and Jonathan Kipnis in Nature. Published online June 1 2015 doi:10.1038/nature14432

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