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Basic Concept of Microglia Biology and Neuroinflammation in Relation to Psychiatry

  • Daniele Mattei
  • Tina NotterEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series


The hypothesis that the neuroimmune system plays a role in the pathogenesis of different psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disease, has attained increasing interest over the past years. Previously thought to have the sole purpose of protecting the central nervous system (CNS) from harmful stimuli, it is now known that the central immune system is critically involved in regulating physiological processes including neurodevelopment, synaptic plasticity, and circuit maintenance. Hence, alterations in microglia – the main immune cell of the CNS – and/or inflammatory factors do not unequivocally connote ongoing neuroinflammation or neuroinflammatory processes per se but rather might signify changes in brain homoeostasis. Despite this, psychiatric research tends to equate functional changes in microglia or alterations in other immune mediators with neuroinflammation. It is the main impetus of this chapter to overcome some of the current misconceptions and possible oversimplifications with respect to neuroinflammation and microglia activity in psychiatry. In order to do so, we will first provide an overview of the basic concepts of neuroinflammation and neuroinflammatory processes. We will then focus on microglia with respect to their ontogeny and immunological and non-immunological functions presenting novel insights on how microglia communicate with other cell types of the central nervous system to ensure proper brain functioning. And lastly, we will delineate the non-immunological functions of inflammatory cytokines in order to address the possible misconception of equating alterations in central cytokine levels with ongoing central inflammation. We hereby hope to help unravel the functional relevance of neuroimmune dysfunctions in psychiatric illnesses and provide future research directions in the field of psychoneuroimmunology.


Cytokines Microglia Microglia Sensome Neuroinflammation Psychiatry Schizophrenia 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich-VetsuisseZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute, Cardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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