Historically, the two major ‘systems’ of the body were divided into nervous and immune. The former containing the electrical wiring governing our senses and our mind, the latter consisting of mobile defence cells ready to fight infection, disease and injury. It is only now we are beginning to understand that our nerves and immune cells are so intertwined that their roles are dependent on one another. Microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells are now known to be involved in a host of brain functions, including development, neuronal function and protection from, or propagation of, disease. Recent evidence even shows that the higher functions of mammalian brains, those that manage emotions such as anxiety, and social behaviour and memory, can be also affected by mobile immune cells that have travelled to the edges of the brain. In certain circumstances, the brain may become inflamed, due to an injury or disease. This can even happen in ‘mild’ injuries such as a bang to the head, resulting in concussion.
My lab is interested in how immune cells resident in, or recruited to, the brain mediate recovery from injury and how this affects normal brain functions controlling anxiety, cognition and mental health.