Elaborate interactions between the immune and nervous systems

Nat Immunol. 2004 Jun;5(6):575-81. doi: 10.1038/ni1078.


The immune system and the nervous system maintain extensive communication, including 'hardwiring' of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves to lymphoid organs. Neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, vasoactive intestinal peptide, substance P and histamine modulate immune activity. Neuroendocrine hormones such as corticotropin-releasing factor, leptin and alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone regulate cytokine balance. The immune system modulates brain activity, including body temperature, sleep and feeding behavior. Molecules such as the major histocompatibility complex not only direct T cells to immunogenic molecules held in its cleft but also modulate development of neuronal connections. Neurobiologists and immunologists are exploring common ideas like the synapse to understand properties such as memory that are shared in these two systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System / immunology
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Fever / immunology
  • Fever / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / immunology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / physiology
  • Nervous System / immunology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Synapses / immunology
  • Synapses / physiology