The Connection between the Nervous and Immune Systems

By Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Special for  USDR

Valentin A. Pavlov, PhD, associate investigator, and Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health, completed an analysis of how the nervous system regulates the immune system, which will help them further identify and develop bioelectronic medicine devices to treat disease and injury. The analysis is published today in Nature  Neuroscience.

The paper examines various studies which further define the mechanisms of regulation of the immune system by the nervous system, and the role this neural control plays in different conditions, such as sepsis, autoimmune diseases and spinal cord injury. The Feinstein Institute researchers noticed that certain neural pathways, like the vagus nerve, actually have the capability to control and modulate several different types of immune responses. It is suggested that with this better understanding of the nervous system’s role in regulating immunity and inflammation, healthcare professionals may have the potential to harness the nervous system to treat  disease.

“Neural regulation of immune function and inflammation is a rapidly evolving field, with significant opportunities for new discoveries,” said Dr. Pavlov who works in the Feinstein Institute’s Center for Biomedical Science and Center for Bioelectronic Medicine. “Recording and decoding neural signals can help with inflammatory and other disease diagnosis and monitoring progression, while it also can be used to create bioelectronic devices to treat the  condition.”

The emerging field of bioelectronic medicine deploys technology to harness the nervous system to treat disease and injury. The nervous system uses electrical signals to communicate information throughout the body. Virtually every cell and organ of the body is directly or indirectly controlled by these neural signals. By developing bioelectronic medicine technologies to record, stimulate and block neural signals, these devices can essentially teach the body how to heal  itself.

“Preclinical research using newly available tools and methodologies is broadening and improving our understanding of neural regulation of immunity and contributing to conceptual advances in the field,” said Dr. Tracey. “Through continued collaboration and research, we can continue to develop ways to harness the body’s own mechanisms to diagnose and treat  itself.”

About the Feinstein  Institute
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York. Home to 50 research laboratories and to clinical research throughout dozens of hospitals and outpatient facilities, the 2,000 researchers and staff of the Feinstein are making breakthroughs in molecular medicine, genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we empower imagination and pioneer discovery, visit

SOURCE Feinstein Institute for Medical  Research

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