The brain and spinal cord are composed of neurons that do different functions such as controlling movements, processing sensory information, and making decisions.
In experiments on mice, researchers at Texas A&M University found that social stress increased the inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS) that consists of the brain and spinal cord, reported health portal Health Central.
Stress appeared to elevate levels of protein cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6), which led to increased severity of multiple sclerosis-like illnesses in the mice.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a serious and incurable neurological disease that causes blindness and paralysis.
Cytokines are pro-inflammatory proteins that regulate immunity and inflammatory functions.
The researchers also found that giving the mice IL-6 neutralising antibody treatments during stressful events prevented the stress-related worsening of the MS-like diseases.
"People exposed to chronic social conflict experience high levels of stress and consequent dysregulation of the immune system, thereby increasing vulnerability to infectious and autoimmune diseases," lead researcher Mary Meagher said.