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Hum Brain Mapp. 2013 Sep;34(9):2217-27. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22063. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

Neural response to emotional stimuli during experimental human endotoxemia.

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Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.


Increases in peripheral cytokines during acute inflammation may affect various neuropsychological functions. The aim of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to investigate the effects of acute endotoxemia on mood and the neural response to emotionally aversive visual stimuli in healthy human subjects. In a double-blind, randomized crossover study, 18 healthy males received a bolus injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 0.4 ng/kg) or saline. Plasma levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and cortisol as well as mood ratings were analyzed together with the blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) response during the presentation of aversive versus neutral pictures. Endotoxin administration induced pronounced transient increases in plasma levels of TNF-α, IL-1ra, IL-6, IL-10, and cortisol. Positive mood was decreased and state anxiety increased. In addition, activation of right inferior orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in response to emotional visual stimuli was significantly increased in the LPS condition. Increased prefrontal activation during the presentation of emotional material may reflect enhanced cognitive regulation of emotions as an adaptive response during an acute inflammation. These findings may have implications for the putative role of inflammatory processes in the pathophysiology of depression.


cytokines; emotional processing; endotoxin; fMRI; peripheral inflammation; sickness behavior

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