Home > Science, Uncategorized > Infectious Behavior: The Brain-Immune Connection

Infectious Behavior: The Brain-Immune Connection

The interconnectedness of the brain and immune system has become a fascinating new field of research, not only in autism but also schizophrenia and even depression. It can be complex stuff. But neurobiologist Paul Patterson, PhD, has produced a remarkably accessible and enjoyable book that intertwines history, case studies and laboratory science. He calls his slim but insightful volume Infectious Behavior: Brain-Immune Connections in Autism, Schizophrenia and Depression.

Patterson is a professor of biological sciences at the California Institute of Technology and a research professor of neurological surgery at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. Readers of this blog may find his name and research interests familiar. Last month, we published a guest post from one of our Weatherstone Fellows who is launching her autism research career in his lab. There, Patterson and his junior colleagues are using mouse models to study how some types of maternal infection during pregnancy can increase the risk that a future child will develop autism. The research holds the potential for both deepening understanding of autism and leading to ways that pregnancy-related risks might be reduced.

Infectious Behavior explores new discoveries about the powerful biochemical communication that takes place between the brain and the immune system (which protects our bodies from infections and cancer). Patterson lets us listen in on some of this brain-immune “crosstalk,” and he explains how it can provide clues to the nature and causes of common but mysterious disorders of brain development and function. Some of this research, he argues, may shed light on today’s autism epidemic.

“Paul Patterson is attempting to describe a new field of study of which he himself is the leading pioneer,” writes Robert Freedman, MD, chair of psychiatry at the University of Colorado. “[His] efforts are unique in that they bridge the basic science and clinical world in a way that no other researcher in this field has done.”

It’s an engaging and thought-provoking read for nonscientists and scientists alike.

…More autism research news and perspective on the Science page.

  1. Katie Wright
    January 17, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I am thrilled to see this AS post! Thank you!
    For too long kids w/ immune dysfunction have languished in traditional behavioral therapy making little to no progress. Imagine having to go to school w/ severe stomach pain or a migraine. How could you perform well under those circumstances?

    So much precious time is wasted when kids do not get the help they need asap.

    I appreciate Dr. Paterson’s work on this issue but would urge him and others to please focus much more on POSTNAL environmental factors. Yes, some moms experienced an infection during pregnancy but more saw their child regress after an environmental insult.

    PANDAS= pediatric autoimmune syndrome. If your typically developing child suddenly regresses after and infection (usually Strep) and /or and adverse vaccine reaction (inflammation, high fevers, nonstop screaming for hours) then develops tics/ OCD – autism your child may have PANDAS. You need to treat this immediately or it will only get worse. This disease is like HIV.

    Ivig was like a miracle for my son. There is such very recent research on this subject – I will find it.

  2. Frances Coffey
    January 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I did not have any infections during or after my pregnancy with my son, and I did not notice any change in his behavior until after he had surgery for a cleft palate and he had tubes inserted in his ears. The first sign of trouble was when they could not get him to fully wake up after the surgery. I believe the anathesis had a lot to do with his developmental problems.

    • michelle
      January 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      I have the same story except there were no problems until my son’s cleft palate surgery at 1 1/2 years old and 4 months after his surgery he awoke with problems standing and was rushed to emergency hospital and was diagnosed w/viral cerebellum ataxia and was seen by a neurologist who suggested my son had the signs of Autism and my life turned upside down from there.

  3. January 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I am so excited as I have always intuitively sensed my sons Aspergers is a systemic problem rather than just a neurological problem. So many digestive issues and illness when he was very young and still the occasional stomach problems. We all know that everything starts in the digestive system. Exciting research!

  4. Leigh Camp
    January 18, 2012 at 10:24 am

    What is Ivig? I am curious because my son is also autistic and I am looking for ways to help him.

  5. January 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Yes, my son is autistic also, I would like to know what Ivig is also! You can email me at wardwell 3238@att.net. Thank you so much! Sandy

  6. Katie Wright
    January 18, 2012 at 11:21 am

    IVIG is an intravenous transfer of healthy immunoglobulins. If your child is chronically sick or struggles w/ digestive/autoimmune problems, it might be a good idea to have his T cell count checked. When I did this for my son, they thought he has HIV!

    I don’t want to give medical advice only tell you what I did. Because of Christian’s low T cell count we applied for ivig via our insurance and it is paid for 100%. T cell is easy- it is like pregnant, not pregnant, low T cell =most insurers pay. Found visiting nurse who comes to our home 2x a month to do procedure. At first hard but now easy. Christian is a different kid- almost never sick and GI problems so much better!

    Also we do a glutatione iv with ivig. ASD kids don’t make enough of this, it is like serotonin and makes Christian feel great. Dr. Jerry Kartinzel’s “Healing Autism” book is so terrific it really helped me understand the underlying immune dysfunction and how to treat it.

  7. Can't wait to start reading it.
    January 18, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Just purchased this book… can’t wait to start reading it. How wonderful, thank you for sharing.

  8. January 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    @Frances Coffey and @michelle I’m sorry to hear that

  9. January 22, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Its a nice book.Thanks Prof Paul H. Patterson for such excellent work.

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