UK study highlights link between inflammation and mental sluggishness

November 25, 2019

The ‘sluggishness’ or ‘brain fog’ that most people feel alongside a chronic illness may have more to do with inflammation – according to scientists at the Centre for Human Brain Health (CHBH) at the University of Birmingham, UK, inflammation specifically affects brain activity related to maintaining alertness.

Dr. Ali Mazaheri and Professor Jane Raymond of CHBH are said to have “identified a specific critical process within the brain that is clearly affected when inflammation is present” which could readily explain the phenomena of ‘brain fog.’

In a placebo-controlled study, 20 male volunteers were administered a salmonella typhoid vaccine that causes temporary inflammation. The volunteers’ brain activity was measured in a computer test a few hours after the injection to study their cognitive responses while their inflammation state was analysed through daily blood samples.

The results revealed a particular effect on an area of the brain responsible for visual attention processes, relating to sensory input and how we perceive/respond to it – inflammation was seen to significantly affect the “alerting” activity of the brain; however, other attention processes such as “orienting” or “executive control” appeared unaffected by inflammation.

Professor Raymond said the research finding shows that even the mildest of illnesses may reduce alertness and first author Dr. Leonie Balter concluded that certain patients who suffer from chronic inflammation could benefit from taking anti-inflammatory drugs to help preserve or improve cognitive function.


Category: Education, Features

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