Glial cells and illness

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Chapter 10 endnote 8, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

A chronically imbalanced body budget acts like fertilizer for disease.

Glial cells have many functions[1], some of which involve inflammation-related damage that results from a chronically mismanaged body-budget :

  • Microglia release cytokines and regulate inflammation in the brain.[2]
  • Microglia sculpt the nervous system by killing neurons. This is a normal process, and is responsible for normal brain development, where neural connections are pruned during childhood and adolescence. Connections that are not used are pruned (if you don't use it, you lose it). Without such pruning, the brain does not function normally. But glial cells also contribute to disease in the nervous system (in the service of metabolic efficiency -- they kill neurons to try to keep your body budget in balance when things get out of hand). With chronic inflammation, they can cause atrophy or brain changes that produce illness.[3]
  • Astrocytes impair the ability of neurons to inhibit one another, which causes illness.[4]


Notes on the Notes

  1. Fields, R. Douglas, Alfonso Araque, Heidi Johansen-Berg, Soo-Siang Lim, Gary Lynch, Klaus-Armin Nave, Maiken Nedergaard, Ray Perez, Terrence Sejnowski, and Hiroaki Wake. 2014. "Glial biology in learning and cognition." The Neuroscientist 20 (5): 426-431.
  2. Grace, Peter M., Mark R. Hutchinson, Steven F. Maier, and Linda R. Watkins. 2014. "Pathological pain and the neuroimmune interface." Nature Reviews Immunology 14 (4): 217-231.
  3. Salter, Michael W., and Simon Beggs. 2014. "Sublime microglia: expanding roles for the guardians of the CNS." Cell 158 (1): 15-24.
  4. Robel, Stefanie, and Harald Sontheimer. 2016. "Glia as drivers of abnormal neuronal activity." Nature neuroscience 19 (1): 28-33.