July 27, 2018 – Inflammation and the Brain


Anchor lead: How does long term inflammation affect the brain? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Chronic inflammation in mid- and late life has been linked to compromised cognition and dementia in a long term study of more than 1500 people by Keenan Walker, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues.

Walker:  We actually found that in people who maintain high levels of systemic inflammation, over what we found to be a 20 year period, that they are more likely to have reduced integrity within their brain white matter.  :12

Keenan notes that white matter is important in the brain’s communications.

Walker: White matter is important for insulating the neurons themselves. If the white matter is not there then the signal from one neuron to the next can’t be transmitted as well, as quickly, and as accurately. So if white matter degenerates or is reduced then that can have an influence on cognition.   :18

Walker says it may be possible to reduce inflammation and mitigate risk for dementia. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.