Can Boosting Immunity Make You Smarter?
After spending a few days in bed with the flu, you may have felt a bit stupid. It is a common sensation, that your sickness is slowing down your brain. At first blush, though, it doesn’t make much sense. For one thing, flu viruses infect the lining of the airways, not the neurons in our brains. For another, the brain is walled off from the rest of the body by a series of microscopic defenses collectively known as the blood-brain barrier. It blocks most viruses and bacteria while allowing essential molecules like glucose to slip through. What ails the body, in other words, shouldn’t interfere with our thinking.
But over the past decade, Jonathan Kipnis, a neuroimmunologist in the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s department of neuroscience, has discovered a possible link, a modern twist on the age-old notion of the body-mind connection. His research suggests that the immune system engages the brain in an intricate dialogue that can influence our thought processes, coaxing our brains to work at their best.