Sickness and the Social Brain: How the Immune System Regulates Behavior across Species.

Journal Article (Review;Journal Article)

Many instances of sickness critically involve the immune system. The immune system talks to the brain in a bidirectional loop. This discourse affords the immune system immense control, such that it can influence behavior and optimize recovery from illness. These behavioral responses to infection are called sickness behaviors and can manifest in many ways, including changes in mood, motivation, or energy. Fascinatingly, most of these changes are conserved across species, and most organisms demonstrate some form of sickness behaviors. One of the most interesting sickness behaviors, and not immediately obvious, is altered sociability. Here, we discuss how the immune system impacts social behavior, by examining the brain regions and immune mediators involved in this process. We first outline how social behavior changes in response to infection in various species. Next, we explore which brain regions control social behavior and their evolutionary origins. Finally, we describe which immune mediators establish the link between illness and social behavior, in the context of both normal development and infection. Overall, we hope to make clear the striking similarities between the mechanisms that facilitate changes in sociability in derived and ancestral vertebrate, as well as invertebrate, species.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Devlin, BA; Smith, CJ; Bilbo, SD

Published Date

  • January 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 97 / 3-4

Start / End Page

  • 197 - 210

PubMed ID

  • 34915474

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1421-9743

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0006-8977

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1159/000521476


  • eng