Inflammation linked to brain fog

A recent study published in Neuroimage has shown a link between inflammation and mental fatigue. 

Dr Ali Mazaheri and Professor Jane Raymond from the University or Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health are the senior authors of the study, which found that inflammation inhibits the body’s ability to reach and maintain an alert state.

The study involved 20 young male participants receiving a salmonella typhoid vaccine. This vaccine causes an inflammatory response in the body but has few other side-effects. They had their attention and cognitive responses measured in the hours following.

The tests measured the participant’s ability to become alert, to prioritise information and to pay attention in the face of conflicting information. The study results showed that while there is an inflammatory response in the body, participants experience a decrease in the ability to maintain mental alertness.

Dr Mazaheri explained that it may be difficult in some people with pre-existing conditions to specify that the mental fog is caused by associated inflammation and not other factors. However, she said: “Our research has identified a specific critical process within the brain that is clearly affected when inflammation is present.”

Dr Mazaheri told Science Daily that this could explain the brain fog. 

“This research finding is major step forward in understanding the links between physical, cognitive and mental health, and tells us that even the mildest of illnesses may reduce alertness,” Prof. Raymond said.

Some patients who suffer from brain fog and conditions associated with chronic inflammation, such as kidney disease, obesity or Alzheimer’s, may benefit from taking anti-inflammatory medication, suggested Dr Leonie Balter, the first author of the study. However, further studies would need to be undertaken. She went on to say that “subtle changes in brain function may be used as an early marker cognitive deterioration in patients with inflammatory diseases”.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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