How does the immune system impact brain development?
The exciting and somewhat unexpected relationship between the immune system and the brain has become one of the most fascinating topics in neuroscience. Even though the immune system was initially implicated in resolving viral and bacterial threats, it is now becoming more evident that it also plays a role in processes in the brain, both under healthy and pathological conditions. This novel role of the immune system in brain health has been implicated in various psychopathologies where neurodevelopment, stress and mood are central. In particular, its role in healthy brain development is becoming more evident, and understanding neuroimmune communication is becoming crucial in treating neurodevelopmental and mood disorders in later life. In the brain, glia function as part of the innate immune system and are programmed to respond to pathogens and physical injury. They also play an important role in neuronal development and pruning. These cells communicate with and respond to chemical signals, such as cytokines and chemokines, which can then initiate or downregulate inflammatory responses. Finally, the trillions of microbes residing in the gut can also stimulate cytokine and chemokine responses in the periphery and play an important role in both immunity and brain development.