Personality could be regulated by the immune system

One of the main areas of research in psychology is the study of personality types.

From him emerged several test proposals and personality systems that are very useful both in applied psychology and in research. howeverWe still know very little about the causes of the appearance of the personality itself.. We realize that there are differences in how people behave (and think), but we don’t know where they come from. Genetics ?, Learning differences? The answer to this question, besides being a mystery, appears to be very complex.

However, recent research has shed light on the question, and has done so from a possible answer that is surprising. One aspect of our personality could be controlled by our immune system.

The origins of the sociable personality

The results of the study, which were published in the journal Nature and are signed by several researchers at the University of Virginia, indicate the possibility that part of our social behavior arose under the influence of our immune system. brain.

The research was conducted from the study of several laboratory mice in the body, there was a shortage of a molecule called gamma interferon (IFN-i). This element plays a very important role in the immune response to pathogens, so we could say that it fights disease.

But its relevance does not lie in this alone, judging by what has been observed in mice. these rodents sand showed much less sociability than others, And his behavior resembled what happens in autism cases.

In addition, to put these animals under observation using the functional magnetic resonance imaging technique, it was found that certain areas of the prefrontal lobe were much more activated than normal in individuals of their species. This was enlightening, as the prefrontal lobe is known to play an important role in regulating social behavior and also calms the commands that reach the cortex from the limbic system, which is the part of the brain responsible for “ the appearance of emotions ”.

The immune system and molecules to be more social

Once this was observed, the researchers injected this group of animals with IFN-i and soon after saw how its behavior became that of a more sociable and completely normal mouse. .

In addition, they found that after introducing this type of molecule into the bodies of mice, it increased the amount of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which is responsible, among other things, for inhibiting the activation of many neurons in the prefrontal lobe. This caused the level of activity in this area to drop to normal.

More studies, more evidence in favor

The researchers themselves conducted a different kind of study, this time from an evolutionary perspective, to see if the role of gamma interferon was as relevant as it seemed. To do this, they analyzed the genomes of several animal species. In this way, they found that animals that had shared space with other members of their species were more likely to make the gene responsible for producing IFN-i more expressed, while the reverse was true for those who had been more isolated.

In other words, these different animal species have been genetically programmed to produce more IFN-i when found in social situations, even though they were not infected.

The implications of the study

The finding made in this study is very relevant for two reasons.

The first is that the most intuitive and apparently logical would be to think that it was social behavior that, by increasing the spread of disease, had effects on the immune systems of our ancestors, and not the other way around. This research breaks with this idea by positioning the immune system as a possible trigger for the appearance of a sociable personality..

In addition, according to Jonathan Kipnis, one of the co-authors of the study, the immune system and the brain were each thought to function on their own, and when immune activity was observed in the brain, it was interpreted as a sign of illness. Therefore, knowing that certain immune components can have such important effects on the brain opens the door to future lines of research that allow us to know more and better about human and animal behavior.

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