Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Stressful events have been implicated in the evolution of mood disorders. In addition to brain neurotransmitters and growth factors, the view has been offered that these disorders might be provoked by the activation of the inflammatory immune system as well as by de novo changes of inflammatory cytokines within the brain. The present review describes the impact of social stressors in animals and in humans on behavioral changes reminiscent of depressive states as well as on cytokine functioning. Social stressors increase pro-inflammatory cytokines in circulation as well as in brain regions that have been associated with depression, varying with the animal's social status and/or behavioral methods used to contend with social challenges. Likewise, in humans, social stressors that favor the development of depression are accompanied by elevated circulating cytokine levels and conversely, conditions that limit the cytokine elevations correlated with symptom attenuation or reversal. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to the potentially powerful effects of social support, social identity, and connectedness in maintaining well-being and in diminishing symptoms of depression.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


Frontiers in Neuroscience

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.