Environmental and Psychological Stressors

Environmental and psychological stressors can lead to various neuropathological changes that cause impairments in memory function and anxiety. We propose that these stressors trigger innate immune system in the central nervous system, notably through activation of multiprotein complexes known as inflammasomes within microglia, the immune cells of the central nervous system. This leads to aberrant neuroinflammatory responses by through secretion of IL-1β and other pro-inflammatory cytokine. We have found that a dietary regime rich in polyphenols can attenuate these neuroinflammatory mechanisms, conferring physiological resilience that maintains normal mood and memory function despite exposure to stress. We are further investigating the critical role of microglia in mediating responses to stress through the use of a technique called DREADDs (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs), in which microglial activity is suppressed by pharmacological compounds to suppress immune responses to stress.