Inflamed Brain

Our brain is our most important organ. Many of us aging folks are now more worried about outliving our wits, than getting cancer. Much of brain aging is actually brain inflammation. Inflamed brains age faster, and make us worried and depressed. What can we do about it? And is this real, or bogus?

Emory Health Science researchers wanted to know, too. They found that 1/3rd of depressed people have inflamed brains. These people have elevated blood inflammatory markers and the inflammation can be distinctly viewed on brain imaging. Wow! No more hiding inflamed brains, we can see you!

Brain inflammation has a specific anatomical area. Like ladies have a G spot, inflamed brains have an I spot. Inflammatory effects on brain tissue are seen as defects between two specific areas: between the ventral striatum (VS, vertical cross section) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC, horizontal). A “failure to communicate” between these two areas causes depression, apathy, and lack of pleasure (anhedonia).

The conversations between these two parts of the brain are necessary for the sensation of feeling good and well with your life. When there is damage, inflammation here, we feel the opposite: out of sorts, less pleasure, less sure our ourselves, frail and unable to motivate and accomplish.

Persistent “brain inflammation” blocks this two-way conversation and causes depression.

Of course, researchers will be looking for drugs to reboot this cross talk, but medical nutritionists look for the cause of the inflammation and how to use food and lifestyle to reboot it. Tweaking life style, identifying and avoiding, which foods inflame you, and using specific nutrients and hormones to “un-inflame” you, can make you, have a happier brain. But you have to work with a specialist that knows how to do this.

J C Felger, Z Li, E Haroon, B J Woolwine, M Y Jung, X Hu, A H Miller. Inflammation is associated with decreased functional connectivity within corticostriatal reward circuitry in depression. Molecular Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2015.168