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Journal: Brain, behavior, and immunity


Recent insights into the role of the human microbiota in cognitive and affective functioning have led to the hypothesis that probiotic supplementation may act as an adjuvant strategy to ameliorate or prevent depression.

Concepts: Psychology, Gut flora, Randomized controlled trial, Escherichia coli, Pharmaceutical industry, Probiotic, Seasonal affective disorder, Emotion


Influenza vaccination is estimated to only be effective in 17-53% of older adults. Multiple patient behaviors and psychological factors have been shown to act as ‘immune modulators’ sufficient to influence vaccination outcomes. However, the relative importance of such factors is unknown as they have typically been examined in isolation. The objective of the present study was to explore the effects of multiple behavioral (physical activity, nutrition, sleep) and psychological influences (stress, positive mood, negative mood) on the effectiveness of the immune response to influenza vaccination in the elderly. A prospective, diary-based longitudinal observational cohort study was conducted. One hundred and thirty-eight community-dwelling older adults (65-85 years) who received the 2014/15 influenza vaccination completed repeated psycho-behavioral measures over the two weeks prior, and four weeks following influenza vaccination. IgG responses to vaccination were measured via antigen microarray and seroprotection via hemagglutination inhibition assays at 4 and 16 weeks post-vaccination. High pre-vaccination seroprotection levels were observed for H3N2 and B viral strains. Positive mood on the day of vaccination was a significant predictor of H1N1 seroprotection at 16 weeks post-vaccination and IgG responses to vaccination at 4 and 16 weeks post-vaccination, controlling for age and gender. Positive mood across the 6-week observation period was also significantly associated with post-vaccination H1N1 seroprotection and IgG responses to vaccination at 16 weeks post-vaccination, but in regression models the proportion of variance explained was lower than for positive mood on the day of vaccination alone. No other factors were found to significantly predict antibody responses to vaccination. Greater positive mood in older adults, particularly on the day of vaccination, is associated with enhanced responses to vaccination.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Cohort study, Vaccine, Vaccination, Immunology, Influenza, Influenza vaccine


Neuroprotective strategies for ischemic stroke have failed to translate from bench to bedside, possibly due to the lack of consideration of key clinical co-morbidities. Stroke and co-morbidities are associated with raised levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1). Inhibition of IL-1 by the administration of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) has shown to be neuroprotective after experimental cerebral ischemia. Stroke can also trigger a robust neuroreparative response following injury, yet many of these new born neurons fail to survive or integrate into pre-existing circuits. Thus, we explore here effects of IL-1Ra on post-stroke neurogenesis in young and aged/co-morbid rats. Aged lean, aged Corpulent (a model of atherosclerosis, obesity and insulin resistance) and young Wistar male rats were exposed to transient cerebral ischemia, received subcutaneous IL-1Ra 3 and 6h during reperfusion, and effects on stroke outcome and neurogenesis were analyzed. Our results show that administration of IL-1Ra improves stroke outcome in both young and aged/co-morbid rats. Furthermore, IL-1Ra not only increases stem cell proliferation, but also significantly enhances neuroblast migration and the number of newly born neurons after cerebral ischemia. Overall, our data demonstrate that systemic administration of IL-1Ra improves outcome and promotes neurogenesis after experimental stroke, further highlighting the therapeutic potential of this clinically approved drug.

Concepts: Inflammation, Signal transduction, Obesity, Stroke, Ischemia, Ischemic cascade, Brain ischemia, Interleukin 1 receptor antagonist


Post exertion malaise is one of the most debilitating aspects of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, yet the neurobiological consequences are largely unexplored. The objective of the study was to determine the neural consequences of acute exercise using functional brain imaging. Fifteen female Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients and 15 healthy female controls completed 30 minutes of submaximal exercise (70% of peak heart rate) on a cycle ergometer. Symptom assessments (e.g. fatigue, pain, mood) and brain imaging data were collected one week prior to and 24 hours following exercise. Functional brain images were obtained during performance of: 1) a fatiguing cognitive task - the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task, 2) a non-fatiguing cognitive task - simple number recognition, and 3) a non-fatiguing motor task - finger tapping. Symptom and exercise data were analyzed using independent samples t-tests. Cognitive performance data were analyzed using mixed-model analysis of variance with repeated measures. Brain responses to fatiguing and non-fatiguing tasks were analyzed using linear mixed effects with cluster-wise (101-voxels) alpha of 0.05. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients reported large symptom changes compared to controls (effect size ≥0.8, p<0.05). Patients and controls had similar physiological responses to exercise (p>0.05). However, patients exercised at significantly lower Watts and reported greater exertion and leg muscle pain (p<0.05). For cognitive performance, a significant Group by Time interaction (p<0.05), demonstrated pre- to post-exercise improvements for controls and worsening for patients. Brain responses to finger tapping did not differ between groups at either time point. During number recognition, controls exhibited greater brain activity (p<0.05) in the posterior cingulate cortex, but only for the pre-exercise scan. For the Paced Serial Auditory Addition Task, there was a significant Group by Time interaction (p<0.05) with patients exhibiting increased brain activity from pre- to post-exercise compared to controls bilaterally for inferior and superior parietal and cingulate cortices. Changes in brain activity were significantly related to symptoms for patients (p<0.05). Acute exercise exacerbated symptoms, impaired cognitive performance and affected brain function in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients. These converging results, linking symptom exacerbation with brain function, provide objective evidence of the detrimental neurophysiological effects of post-exertion malaise.

Concepts: Brain, Neuroscience, Cerebrum, Activity, Fatigue, Analysis of variance, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Malaise


The molecules and pathways of the gut-brain axis represent new targets for developing methods to diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders. Manipulation of the gut microbiome with probiotics may be a therapeutic strategy with the potential to relieve gastrointestinal (GI) comorbidities and improve psychiatric symptoms. Candida albicans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commensal yeast species, can be imbalanced in the unhealthy human microbiome, and these fungal exposures were previously found elevated in schizophrenia. In a longitudinal, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pilot investigation of 56 outpatients with schizophrenia, we examined the impact of probiotic treatment on yeast antibody levels, and the relationship between treatment and antibody levels on bowel discomfort and psychiatric symptoms. We found that probiotic treatment significantly reduced C. albicans antibodies over the 14-week study period in males, but not in females. Antibody levels of S. cerevisiae were not altered in either treatment group. The highest levels of bowel discomfort over time occurred in C. albicans-seropositive males receiving the placebo. We observed trends toward improvement in positive psychiatric symptoms in males treated with probiotics who were seronegative for C. albicans. Results from this pilot study hint at an association of C. albicans seropositivity with worse positive psychiatric symptoms, which was confirmed in a larger cohort of 384 males with schizophrenia. In conclusion, the administration of probiotics may help normalize C. albicans antibody levels and C. albicans-associated gut discomfort in many male individuals. Studies with larger sample sizes are warranted to address the role of probiotics in correcting C. albicans-associated psychiatric symptoms. identifier: NCT01242371.

Concepts: Gut flora, Fungus, Yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Mental disorder, Candida albicans, Ascomycota, Yeasts


Infection-triggered disease onset, chronic immune activation and autonomic dysregulation in CFS point to an autoimmune disease directed against neurotransmitter receptors. Autoantibodies against G-protein coupled receptors were shown to play a pathogenic role in several autoimmune diseases. Here, serum samples from a patient cohort from Berlin (n= 268) and from Bergen with pre- and post-treatment samples from 25 patients treated within the KTS-2 rituximab trial were analysed for IgG against human α and ß adrenergic, muscarinic (M) 1-5 acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, angiotensin, and endothelin receptors by ELISA and compared to a healthy control cohort (n=108). Antibodies against ß2, M3 and M4 receptors were significantly elevated in CFS patients compared to controls. In contrast, levels of antibodies against α adrenergic, dopamine, serotonin, angiotensin, and endothelin receptors were not different between patients and controls. A high correlation was found between levels of autoantibodies and elevated IgG1-3 subclasses, but not with IgG4. Further patients with high ß2 antibodies had significantly more frequently activated HLA-DR+ T cells and more frequently thyreoperoxidase and anti-nuclear antibodies. In patients receiving rituximab maintenance treatment achieving prolonged B-cell depletion, elevated ß2 and M4 receptor autoantibodies significantly declined in clinical responder, but not in non-responder. We provide evidence that 29.5% of patients with CFS had elevated antibodies against one or more M acetylcholine and ß adrenergic receptors which are potential biomarkers for response to B-cell depleting therapy. The association of autoantibodies with immune markers suggests that they activate B and T cells expressing ß adrenergic and M acetylcholine receptors. Dysregulation of acetylcholine and adrenergic signalling could also explain various clinical symptoms of CFS.

Concepts: Immune system, Signal transduction, Neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine, Autoimmune diseases, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, Norepinephrine, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M4


Aging is associated with increased circulating pro-inflammatory and lower anti-inflammatory cytokines. Exercise training, in addition to improving muscle function, reduces these circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines. Yet, few studies have evaluated changes in the expression of cytokine within skeletal muscle after exercise training. The aim of the current study was to examine the expression of cytokines both at rest and following a bout of isokinetic exercise performed before and after 12 weeks of resistance exercise training in young (n=8, 20.3 ± 0.8 yrs) and elderly men (n=8, 66.9 ± 1.6 yrs). Protein expression of various cytokines was determined in muscle homogenates. The expression of MCP-1, IL-8 and IL-6 (which are traditionally classified as ‘pro-inflammatory’) increased substantially after acute exercise. By contrast, the expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4, IL-10 and IL-13 increased only slightly (or not at all) after acute exercise. These responses were not significantly different between young and elderly men, either before or after 12 weeks of exercise training. However, compared with the young men, the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines 2 h post intense exercise tended to be greater in the elderly men prior to training. Training attenuated this difference. These data suggest that the inflammatory response to unaccustomed exercise increases with age. Furthermore, regular exercise training may help to normalize this inflammatory response, which could have important implications for muscle regeneration and adaptation in the elderly.

Concepts: Cytokine, Muscle, Exercise, Gerontology, Strength training, Weight training, Resistance training, Ageing


Physiological indices of stress and ill-health (cortisol and salivary immunoglobulin A) were assessed to determine if they were predicted by Siegrist’s Effort-reward imbalance model (ERI) with an aim of identifying employees at risk of illness. Male Australian dairy farmers (N = 66) completed the Perceived Stress Scale, Work related Questions II & III, Eysenck Personality Questionnaire Revised -Short and demographic questions and provided morning saliva samples (at awakening and 30 mins. post awakening) on a working day, which were subsequently analysed for cortisol and salivary immunoglobulin A (sIgA) concentration levels. A high percentage (45.5%) of the sample reported an imbalance between efforts and rewards in the workplace that may place them ‘at risk’ for ill-health. After controlling for disposition, sIgA scores were more successfully predicted by the ERI than the cortisol assessments. Although both efforts and rewards were significantly associated with sIgA, efforts were most strongly associated. The dispositional trait overcommitment, did not moderate the experience of stress on the physiologic indices. The current investigation supports the continued use of sIgA in studies that use biomarkers to assess occupational stress. ERI ratio scores >1 aligned with previous findings that suggest elevated risk of illness for these employees.

Concepts: Immunoglobulin A, Saliva, Biology, Physiology, Illness, Assessment, Neuroticism, Eysenck Personality Questionnaire


High-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity is reaching worldwide proportions. In addition to causing obesity, HFDs also induce a variety of health disorders, which includes cognitive decline. Hippocampal function may be particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of HFD, and it is suspected that ‘primed’ neuroinflammatory processes may mediate this response. To examine the link between diet, hippocampal function and neuroinflammation, male Wistar rats were fed a medium or HFD. Hippocampal memory function was measured using contextual pre-exposure fear conditioning (CPE-FC). Rats fed a HFD demonstrated impaired memory, an effect that was augmented with longer duration of HFD consumption. HFD-induced memory impairments were linked to potentiated levels of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) protein in the hippocampus 2 h after the foot-shock that occurs during CPE-FC. Central IL-1 receptor antagonism, with intracisterna magna (ICM) administration of hIL-1RA prior to the foot-shock prevented the diet-induced memory disruption, suggesting a critical role for IL-1β in this phenomenon. Additionally, obese animals whose diet regimen was reversed from HFD back to standard chow recovered memory function and did not demonstrate a foot-shock-induced hippocampal IL-1β increase. Interestingly, dietary reversal neutralized the negative impact of HFD on memory and IL-1β, yet animals maintained physiological evidence of obesity (increased body mass and serum leptin), indicating that dietary components, not body mass, may mediate the negative effects on memory.

Concepts: Protein, Amygdala, Nutrition, Obesity, Memory, Hippocampus, Leptin, Amnesia


Studies using animal models have shown that depression affects the stability of the microbiota, but the actual structure and composition in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) are not well understood. Here, we analyzed fecal samples from 46 patients with depression (29 active-MDD and 17 responded-MDD) and 30 healthy controls (HCs). High-throughput pyrosequencing showed that, according to the Shannon index, increased fecal bacterial α-diversity was found in the active-MDD (A-MDD) vs. the HC group but not in the responded-MDD (R-MDD) vs. the HC group. Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria strongly increased in level, whereas that of Firmicutes was significantly reduced in the A-MDD and R-MDD groups compared with the HC group. Despite profound interindividual variability, levels of several predominant genera were significantly different between the MDD and HC groups. Most notably, the MDD groups had increased levels of Enterobacteriaceae and Alistipes but reduced levels of Faecalibacterium. A negative correlation was observed between Faecalibacterium and the severity of depressive symptoms. These findings enable a better understanding of changes in the fecal microbiota composition in such patients, showing either a predominance of some potentially harmful bacterial groups or a reduction in beneficial bacterial genera. Further studies are warranted to elucidate the temporal and causal relationships between gut microbiota and depression and to evaluate the suitability of the microbiome as a biomarker.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Major depressive disorder, Dysthymia