Mind over immunity

FASEB J. 2001 Jul;15(9):1575-6. doi: 10.1096/fj.01-0148hyp.


The central nervous system regulates the innate immune system by elaborating anti-inflammatory hormone cascades in response to bacterial products and immune mediators. We recently discovered that the central nervous system also responds via acetylcholine-mediated efferent signals carried through the vagus nerve. Nicotinic cholinergic receptors expressed on macrophages detect these signals and respond with a dampened cytokine response. Vagus nerve stimulators can mimic this response and can prevent lethal endotoxemia. This newly appreciated cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway provides a neural substrate to study brain-immune interactions and might be harnessed for therapy of cytokine-mediated disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Psychophysiology*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vagus Nerve / immunology*
  • Vagus Nerve / metabolism


  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Acetylcholine