From Inflammation to Sickness and Cognitive Dysfunction: When the Immune System Subjugates the Brain

Publish Date: 1 April 2013
Author(s): Rodney W. Johnson, PhD


Microglial cells, resident macrophages in the central nervous system, are relatively quiescent but can respond to signals from the peripheral immune system and induce neuroinflammation. In aging, microglia tend to transition to a proinflammatory state and become hypersensitive to messages emerging from immune-to-brain signaling pathways. Thus, in older individuals with an infection, microglia overreact and produce excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines causing behavioral pathology including cognitive dysfunction. Dr Johnson describes recent studies that indicate dietary flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties and are capable of mitigating microglial cells in the brain of aged mice. Thus, he argues that dietary or supplemental flavonoids and other bioactives have the potential to restore the population of microglial cells in the aging brain to a more quiescent state.
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Author Bios

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Rodney W. Johnson, Phd

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Neuroscience Program, USA
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