A New Era of Research Needed
Inflammation occurs when the immune system detects injury, infection, or tissue damage. During an inflammatory response, the body sends white blood cells, hormones, and nutrients to the affected area to fight off any potential threats and repair damaged tissue. While this is a healthy and necessary defense mechanism, it typically presents as short-term pain, swelling, redness, warmth, or fever.
However, inflammation is not always helpful. Sometimes it becomes chronic, causing health problems such as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Sometimes inflammation happens because the immune system is dysregulated and flares where it is not needed. In some illnesses, the immune system gets confused and attacks healthy parts of the body, referred to as autoimmunity.
In the brain, inflammation can affect how we think, act, feel and move. Whether triggered by an infection, injury, or autoimmune response, brain inflammation can cause diverse neurological and psychological symptoms and complications, from depression and anxiety to obsessive compulsive and movement disorders. For this reason, brain inflammation can be difficult to differentiate from other conditions.
Neuroinflammatory conditions are subject to increasing interest inwithin medical research. However, there is still a great amount to learn about their causes, diagnosis, and treatment. The overlap between different conditions, commonalities in presentation, and connections between brain inflammation and mental health are relatively new areas of exploration.
The connection between brain inflammation and mental health is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. This is largely because:
- there hasn’t been enough research into brain inflammation (particularly infection-related illnesses)
- research has often tended to focus on individual conditions, rather than considering connections and similarities between conditions
- studies have failed to fully take account of patient experiences
Without robust, reliable evidence, the clinical community cannot properly diagnose and treat patients. As a result, many patients feel dismissed and end up without treatment. To revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of neuroinflammatory illnesses, a new, coordinated, patient-centered approach to research is needed.
At the Brain Inflammation Collaborative (BIC), we are on a mission to ensure that brain inflammation impacting mental health is properly diagnosed and treated. We do this by:
- Collaborating with researchers, clinicians, and patients to share stories, data, information, and tools
- Developing & supporting innovative research tools, methods, and projects
- Educating patients, clinicians, and others about the impact of brain inflammation on mental health through awareness and research