Cytokine-induced sickness behaviour: a neuroimmune response to activation of innate immunity

Eur J Pharmacol. 2004 Oct 1;500(1-3):399-411. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2004.07.040.


Sickness refers to a coordinated set of subjective, behavioural and physiological changes that develop in sick individuals during the course of an infection. These changes are due to the effects of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and other proinflammatory cytokines on brain cellular targets. Sickness behaviour is mediated by proinflammatory cytokines that are temporarily expressed in the brain during infection. These centrally produced cytokines are the same as those expressed by innate immune cells and they act on brain receptors that are identical to those characterized on immune cells. Primary afferent nerves represent the main communication pathway between peripheral and central cytokines. Proinflammatory cytokines modulate learning and memory processes. The expression and action of proinflammatory cytokines in the brain in response to peripheral cytokines are regulated by various molecular intermediates including anti-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-10 (IL-10) and the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), hormones such as glucocorticoids and neuropeptides such as vasopressin and alpha-melanotropin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Infections / immunology
  • Infections / psychology
  • Neuroimmunomodulation*
  • Sick Role*


  • Cytokines