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Curr Opin Neurol. 2005 Apr;18(2):117-23.

Effect of inflammation on central nervous system development and vulnerability.

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Perinatal Center, Institute for the Health of Women and Children, Sahlgrenska Academy, Goteborg, Sweden.



Preterm infants are at high risk for neurological sequelae and cognitive dysfunction. These problems have been attributed to a high occurrence of central nervous system (CNS) lesions, but suboptimal brain development appears to be just as important. In this brief review we present the hypothesis that systemic infection/inflammation can severely interfere with normal CNS function and development.


We focus on the effects of lipopolysaccharide because it is often used to model the systemic inflammatory response induced by infections. The inflammatory signals are propagated across the intact or ruptured blood-brain barrier to the CNS by proinflammatory cytokines, prostaglandins, or lipopolysaccharide. Subsequently, microglia are triggered to release cytokines, oxygen free radicals and trophic factors, which will influence the CNS in various ways. Cognition, dendritic length and spine density, dopaminergic cells, neurogenesis and glial proliferation will be affected. Furthermore, CNS vulnerability and, in some instances, cerebral anomalies and white matter damage are produced.


Hypothetically, all of these effects on the CNS triggered by inflammation may have severe consequences for the individual's ability to cope with environmental exposures during childhood and adulthood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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