The behavioral repertoire of humans and animals changes dramatically following infection. Sick individuals have little motivation to eat, are listless, complain of fatigue and malaise, loose interest in social activities and have significant changes in sleep patterns. They display an inability to experience pleasure, have exaggerated responses to pain and fail to concentrate. Proinflammatory cytokines acting in the brain cause sickness behaviors. These nearly universal behavioral changes are a manifestation of a central motivational state that is designed to promote recovery. Exaggerated symptoms of sickness in cancer patients, such as cachexia, can be life-threatening. However, quality of life is often drastically impaired before the cancer becomes totally debilitating. Although basic studies in psychoneuroimmunology have defined proinflammatory cytokines as the central mediators of sickness behavior, a much better understanding of how cytokine and neurotransmitter receptors communicate with each other is needed. Advances that have been made during the past decade should now be extended to clinical studies in an attempt to alleviate sickness symptoms and improve quality of life for cancer patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience