Bugs and the Brain
- Mental illnesses once thought to be the result of neurological or psychological defects may be caused by viral or microbial infections.
- The strongest evidence links schizophrenia to prenatal influenza infection; pregnant women who become ill with the flu are more likely to give birth to children who will develop schizophrenia.
- The body’s immune reaction, rather than the infections themselves, may be to blame for the resulting brain damage and psychiatric symptoms.
- Understanding the relation between infections and psychiatric disorders may someday allow us to prevent mental illness using drugs or vaccines.
No doubt there's resistance but...Doctors have known for many years that microbes such as syphilis and Streptococcus can, if left untreated, lead to serious psychiatric problems. Now a growing number of scientists are proposing that microbes are to blame for several mental illnesses once thought to have neurological or psychological defects at their roots. The strongest evidence pertains to schizophrenia, but autism, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder have also been linked to bacterial, viral or parasitic infections in utero, in childhood or in maturity. Some of these infections can directly affect the brain, whereas others might trigger immune reactions that interfere with brain development or perhaps even attack our own brain cells in an autoimmune mistake.
To see some other ground breaking research on mental illness, click here.
With a bit of luck, the end game of Cuckoo's Nest will wind up in the dustbin of history.
If he's crazy, what does that make you?