Neuroscientists based out of McLean Hospital have found an underlying link between childbirth and immune system activation of young pregnant mothers. The immunity of mothers can alter the brain’s circuit during young adulthood phase of the child.
The alterations are seen to be in-consistency with behavioral symptoms that commonly occur in individuals with autism condition.
Vadim Bolshakov comments, “Growing evidence highlights that immune system activation, such as postnatal bacterial infections and other common viral infections can have a large impact on human brain development.”
Bolshakov is the director of Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at McLean Hospital.
Some error has occured.
“Earlier studies have maintained their focus on behavioral symptoms that are produced by immune activations. However, the present study goes in-depth and understands how the brain circuits alter at the cellular levels owing to infections.”
Bill Carlezon, the divisional chief at McLean Hospital says, “It does not mean we are undermining previous studies. Studies have helped in demonstrating things that happen as a result of behavioral changes owing to immune systems activations.”
Carlezon continues, “The one thing that distinguishes this study is the biological basis of these symptom developments.”
To understand further impacts on developing brains, researchers induced postnatal or maternal immune treatments in genetically modified pregnant mice and their offspring’s. Further, the pregnant mice were treated with polycytidylic acids to stimulate the effects of viral infections.
This was followed by treating the modified mice with a bacterial stimulating chemical that causes temporary activations of immunity systems. The bacterial stimulating chemical was injected at a time which approximates brain development stage in a human child at the time of birth, thus helping researchers to mimic bacterial infections that occur during pregnancy phase.
Post application of treatments, investigators examined stimulated brain infections in young mice and compared their results to those mice that hadn’t received any injections.
The researchers further combined a technique that makes effective use of light to have neuronal activity controlled in living tissues combined with behavioral testing strategies. Correspondingly, other underlying symptoms and immune activations owing to decreased social interactions and increased anxiety levels were affected in mice due to immune activations.
The groups that received combined postnatal and maternal treatments showed heightened behavioral effects. To distinguish the pathways in each of the treatment group, researchers used electrophysiology tests.
Carlezon and Bolshakov highlight these abilities to distinguish and detect electrophysiological changes suggest the methodologies involved in the present study provides a definitive link to understand brain disorders and immune systems versus only studying behavioral effects alone.
Bolshakov comments, “The results of the study are still in their novel stage.Comprehensive and sensitive testing has successfully revealed the ways early postnatal and prenatal immune activations regulate important behavioral signals that are associated with conditions like autism and other related disorders.”
The researchers conclude by highlighting the findings could be of immense translational value owing to the important clues that help one in the understanding of mechanisms and their potential underlying treatments.