Inflammation is a response by the immune system and is healthy. It is the mechanism that defends one’s health by sending out antibodies, proteins, and blood to fight toxins, and infections for the purpose of healing. Typically, the process lasts for a few hours or days.
However, in some cases it lingers which is when it becomes chronic inflammation from acute inflammation which comes with symptoms such as rashes, abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, etc. Such prolonged inflammation can be caused due to several factors including no treatment, an autoimmune disorder, exposure to pollution, alcohol, chronic stress, etc.
Left unchecked, chronic inflammation can cause a number of health concerns to arise such as cancer, arthritis, asthma among others. Now a new study shows that this type of inflammation can also cause motivational impairment in some people.
What Does This Study Suggest?
As per a new study by Emory University, prolonged, low-grade inflammation in patients of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression can cause cognitive impairments due to a drop in dopamine markers. The report has been published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal.
Co-author of the study, Micheal Treadway said, “When your body is fighting an infection or healing a wound, your brain needs a mechanism to recalibrate your motivation to do other things, so you don’t use up too much of your energy. We now have strong evidence suggesting that the immune system disrupts the dopamine system to help the brain perform this recalibration.”
For the purpose of this research, investigators will use a computation method which will help them measure the effects that chronic inflammation has on energy and decision-making. The researchers have looked at previous studies as well to develop a link. A past study shows that inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules used by the immune system for signaling, have an impact on the dopamine system.
Another study, which is a recent one, shows that immune cells are able to shift their metabolic states in a way different than most other cells. In the modern era, people are less physically active and can have low-grade inflammation that is chronic due to stress, metabolic syndrome, obesity, aging, etc.
This could make the energy conservation process maladaptive which is something that didn’t happen in past times when there were more pathogens and predators, yet the immune system used conserved energy when in stress.
Other studies prove that there is a relationship between elevated immune system and low markers of motivation and dopamine with some cases of schizophrenia, depression, and other mental ailments. By this, researchers of this study are suggesting that some people are sensitive to these impacts of an elevated immune system which can cause motivational impairments. They are not saying that inflammation can be a cause of mental disorders.
Chronic inflammation has the ability to ruin health in a number of ways. Prolonged, low-grade inflammation can also cause a decrease in dopamine and decision-making as per a new study which says that it can lead to motivational impairments in some people.