source: The Guardian
published: 3 November 2017
Descartes’s notion of dualism – that the mind and body are separate entities – is wrong, but has proved surprisingly persistent, and until recently dominated attempts to understand mental illness. When the brain stopped working properly, a psychological origin was sought.
Undoubtedly, life’s experiences and our personalities shape the way our brains function. But there is now a compelling body of evidence that brain disorders can also originate from things going awry in our basic biology.
Particularly intriguing is the discovery that the brain, once thought to be separated from the immune system by the blood-brain barrier, is powerfully influenced by immune activity.
The latest trial, focused on schizophrenia, is backed by converging evidence from several fields that immune cells in the brain, called microglia, play at least some role in this disease. Prof Oliver Howes, the psychiatrist leading the work, discovered that these cells appear to go into overdrive in the early stages of schizophrenia.