The influence of systemic inflammation on inflammation in the brain: implications for chronic neurodegenerative disease

Brain Behav Immun. 2004 Sep;18(5):407-13. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2004.01.004.


Systemic inflammation is associated with sickness behaviour and signals pass from the blood to the brain via macrophage populations associated with the brain, the perivascular macrophages and the microglia. The amplitude, or gain, of this transduction process is critically dependent on the state of activation of these macrophages. In chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or prion disease the pathology is associated with a highly atypical inflammatory response, characterised by the activation of the macrophage populations in the brain: the cells are primed. Recent evidence suggests that systemic inflammation may impact on local inflammation in the diseased brain leading to exaggerated synthesis of inflammatory cytokines and other mediators in the brain, which may in turn influence behaviour. These interactions suggest that systemic infections, or indeed any systemic challenge that promotes a systemic inflammatory response, may contribute to the outcome or progression of chronic neurodegenerative disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / immunology
  • Animals
  • Brain / immunology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / immunology*
  • Prion Diseases / immunology


  • Cytokines