It took decades to arrive at the general consensus dismissing the notion that the immune system is independent of the central nervous system. In the case of uncontrolled systemic inflammation, the relationship between the two systems is thrown off balance and results in cognitive and emotional impairment. It is specifically true for autoimmune pathologies where the central nervous system is affected as a result of systemic inflammation. Along with boosting circulating cytokine levels, systemic inflammation can lead to aberrant brain-resident immune cell activation, leakage of the blood⁻brain barrier, and the production of circulating antibodies that cross-react with brain antigens. One of the most disabling autoimmune pathologies known to have an effect on the central nervous system secondary to the systemic disease is systemic lupus erythematosus. Its neuropsychiatric expression has been extensively studied in lupus-like disease murine models that develop an autoimmunity-associated behavioral syndrome. These models are very useful for studying how the peripheral immune system and systemic inflammation can influence brain functions. In this review, we summarize the experimental data reported on murine models developing autoimmune diseases and systemic inflammation, and we explore the underlying mechanisms explaining how systemic inflammation can result in behavioral deficits, with a special focus on in vivo neuroimaging techniques.
Keywords: autoimmunity; behavior; blood–brain barrier; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); murine model; neuropsychiatric lupus (NPSLE); systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).