Public Seminars

Global Disability Research Group Seminar Series

focusing on cross-disciplinary global disability research.
To join the mailing list for this seminar series please e-mail your details to Ellie Cole.

Global Health (IGH) Symposia

Members of the department contribute to IGH public meetings which bring together expertise on global health issues from all faculties within UCL.
Contact: Sarah Ball, Tel: (internal x82 72 2352)

'1pm' Internal Speakers Seminar Series

Microbial “Old Friends”, immunoregulation and psychiatric disorders

Prof Graham Rook, BA MB BChir MD Centre for Clinical Microbiology, UCL

Urbanisation leads to reduced exposure to immunoregulation-inducing macro- and microorganisms and microbiota that accompanied mammalian evolution and co-evolved roles in setting up the regulation of the immune system. Reduced exposure to these organisms predisposes to poor regulation of inflammation, and so to increased susceptibility to chronic inflammatory disorders such as allergies, autoimmunity and inflammatory bowel disease. But inflammation is equally relevant to psychiatric disorders. Inflammatory mediators modulate brain development, cognition and mood, and accompany low socioeconomic status and depression in developed countries. Moreover psychosocial stressors induce inflammatory mediators and modulate the microbiota. These effects are exaggerated when they occur against a background of reduced immunoregulation, so that more inflammation (and therefore more psychiatric symptoms) will result from any given level of psychosocial stress in rich developed countries. This interaction between immunoregulatory deficits and psychosocial stressors may lead to reduced stress resilience in modern urban communities. The talk will explore the epidemiological and biological parallels between psychiatric disorders and chronic inflammatory disorders, and merge immunological and psychosocial explanations in a series of mechanisms that are relevant to all these disorders and that transcend boundaries between traditional medical disciplines.

Graham Rook BA MB BChir MD (Cambridge University and St. Thomas’ Hospital MedicalSchool) is an immunologist whose approach has always been interdisciplinary. In 2003 he formulated the “Old Friends” mechanism as a Darwinian replacement for the hygiene hypothesis. Since 2007 he has been working with Chris Lowry (neuroscientist, Boulder CO), and also, since 2010, with Charles Raison (psychiatrist, Tucson, AZ) on the implications of dysregulated immune systems for psychiatric disorders and SES gradients. These ideas have been disseminated at conferences, workshops and publications in the fields of neuroscience, psychiatry and immunology. But since they might be particularly relevant to work such as the Whitehall studies, performed at UCL, we are now anxious to seek dialogue and collaboration with epidemiologists.

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