How Chronic Inflammation Affects Cognition

Share On Social Media

An estimated 12 million UK people suffer a chronic medical illness, and many of them describe severe mental tiredness as sluggishness or ‘brain fog.’ This condition is frequently as incapacitating as the sickness itself.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Amsterdam have discovered a probable relationship between inflammation and cognition.

A team from the University’s Centre for Human Brain Health looked at the relationship between mental fog and inflammation – the body’s response to sickness. According to a study published in Neuroimage, inflammation appears to have a particularly unfavorable impact on the brain’s readiness to attain and sustain an alert state.

The Relationship Between Inflammation and Cognitive Function
The study’s principal authors are Dr. Ali Mazaheri and Professor Jane Raymond of the University’s Centre for Human Brain Health. “Scientists have long hypothesized a link between inflammation and cognition,” adds Dr. Mazaheri, “but it is very difficult to distinguish between cause and effect.”

“For example, persons who have a medical illness or are extremely overweight may complain of cognitive impairment, but it’s difficult to establish whether this is related to the inflammation associated with these conditions or whether there are other causes.”

“Our research has uncovered a specific essential function within the brain that is visibly altered when there is inflammation.”

The study concentrated on the part of the brain that is crucial for visual attention. A group of 20 young male volunteers participated in the study and were given a salmonella typhoid vaccination, which induces acute inflammation but has minimal significant negative effects.

The tests employed in the study tested three independent attention processes, each of which included different areas of the brain. These processes are: ‘alerting,’ which requires attaining and sustaining a state of alertness; ‘orienting,’ which involves picking and prioritizing useful sensory information; and ‘executive control,’ which is used to decide what to pay attention to when available information is conflicting.

The findings revealed that inflammation primarily reduced brain activity associated with keeping awake, while inflammation had no effect on the other attention processes.

“These findings clearly reveal that inflammation affects a very particular section of the brain network,” explains Dr. Mazaheri. “This may explain ‘brain fog.'”

“This research finding is a huge step forward in understanding the relationships between physical, cognitive, and emotional health and shows us that even the mildest of illnesses may affect attentiveness,” stated Professor Raymond.

Dr. Leonie Balter, the study’s first author and a PhD candidate, said, “A deeper knowledge of the links between inflammation and brain function can help us examine new strategies to treat some of these disorders.”

“For example, additional research could indicate that people with chronic inflammation-related diseases, such as obesity, kidney disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, could benefit from taking anti-inflammatory medicines to help preserve or improve cognitive capacities.”

“Furthermore, minor alterations in brain function may be employed as an early indication of cognitive decline in inflammatory disease patients.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: