The systemic response to CNS injury

Exp Neurol. 2014 Aug;258:105-11. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2014.03.013.


Inflammation within the brain or spinal cord has the capacity to damage neurons and is known to contribute to long-term disability in a spectrum of central nervous system (CNS) pathologies. However, there is a more profound increase in the recruitment of potentially damaging populations of leukocytes to the spinal cord than to the brain after equivalent injuries. Increased levels of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in the spinal cord underpin this dissimilarity after injury, which also appears to be very sensitive to processes that operate within organs distant from the primary injury site such as the liver, lung and spleen. Indeed, CNS injury per se can generate profound changes in gene expression and the cellularity of these organs, which, as a consequence, gives rise to secondary organ damage. Our understanding of the local inflammatory processes that can damage neurons is becoming clearer, but our understanding of how the peripheral immune system coordinates the response to CNS injury and how any concomitant infections or injury might impact on the outcome of CNS injury is not so well developed. It is clear that the orientation of the response to peripheral challenges, be it a pro- or anti-inflammatory effect, appears to be dependent on the nature and timing of events. Here, the importance of the inter-relationship between inflammation in the CNS and the consequent inflammatory response in peripheral tissues is highlighted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries / immunology
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Chemokines / immunology
  • Chemokines / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / immunology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators