New research reveals that viral infections can trigger brain endothelial and epithelial cells to produce a cytokine that impairs neuronal firing in the hippocampus, leading to depressive-like behavior and cognitive impairments (Blank T et al. Immunity. doi:10.1016/j.immuni.2016.04.005 [published online April 19, 2016]).
After infecting mice with the vesicular stomatitis virus, which causes flu-like symptoms in humans, investigators at the University of Freiburg in Germany assessed the animals’ behavior in a forced swim test. Viral infection increased the duration of animals’ immobility response, an indicator of depressive-like behavior.
Hampton T. How Depressed Mood May Develop After Viral Infection. JAMA. 2016;315(21):2267. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.6852