Scientists at the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam have revealed a possible explanation for the mental lethargy that often accompanies the disease.
An estimated 12M UK citizens have a chronic medical condition, and many of them report severe mental fatigue which they characterize as ‘lethargy’ or ‘brain fog’. This condition is often debilitating as a disease.
A team at the University’s Center for Human Brain Health examined the link between this mental fog and inflammation – the body’s response to the disease. In a study published in Neuroimage, they show that inflammation has a particularly negative effect on brain readiness and affects reaching and maintaining a vigilant state.
Dr. Ali Mazaheri and Professor Jane Raymond of the University’s Center for Human Brain Health are senior authors of the study. Dr. Says Mazaheri: “Scientists have long suspected a link between inflammation and cognition, but it is very difficult to be clear about its cause and effect.
For example, living with a medical condition or very much People with weight may complain of cognitive impairment, but if it is due to inflammation associated with these conditions or there are other reasons, it is difficult to tell. “
“Our research has identified a specific critical process within the brain that clearly affects when inflammation is present.”
The study focused exclusively on one area of the brain that is responsible for visual attention. A group of 20 young male volunteers participated and received a Salmonella typhoid vaccine that causes temporary inflammation but has some other side effects.
A few hours after injection they were tested for cognitive responses to simple images on a computer screen to measure their ability to control attention. Brain activity was measured when they performed an attention test.
On a different day, before or after, he received an injection with water (a placebo) and performed the same meditation test. On every test day, they were unaware of which injection they had received. Their inflammatory status was measured by analyzing the blood taken each day.
The tests used in the study assessed three different attentional processes, each involving different parts of the brain.
These processes are: “alerting” which involves reaching and maintaining an alert state; “Orienting” which involves selecting and prioritizing useful sensory information; And “executive control” is used to resolve what contradicts attention to the available information.
The results showed that inflammation specifically affects brain activity related to alertness, while other attentional processes appear to be unaffected by inflammation.
“These results show quite clearly that the brain is a very specific part of the network that is affected by inflammation,” Dr. Mazaheri says. “This may explain ‘brain fog’.”
Professor Raymond says, “This research discovery is a major step toward understanding the relationship between physical, cognitive, and mental health and tells us that even the mildest of illnesses can reduce alertness.”
Dr. Leonie Balter, the first author of the study that was completed as part of his Ph.D., concluded: “Getting a better understanding of the relationship between inflammation and brain function allows us to investigate other ways of treating some of these conditions will help.
For example, further. Research may show that patients associated with conditions such as chronic inflammation, such as obesity, kidney disease, or Alzheimer’s, are anesthetized. The act to improve or repair can take anti-inflammatory drugs to help. “
“In addition, subtle changes in brain function can be used as an early marker in declining patients with cognitive worsening diseases.”
The next step for the team will be to test the effects of inflammation on other areas of brain function such as memory.