Now it seems the immune system, and infections that stimulate it, can influence our moods, memory and ability to learn. Some strange behaviours, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, may be triggered by infections, and the immune system may even shape our basic personalities, such as how anxious or impulsive we are.
It was meant to be a new way to fight cancer. The idea was that injecting a certain bacterium into people would stimulate their immune systems to destroy tumours. Unfortunately, the treatment had little effect on the survival of the terminally ill lung cancer patients in the first trial. It did have one unexpected effect, though: those injected with the bacterium experienced a radical improvement in their mood and quality of life.
I can’t get the article online (it is online through NU but it’s delayed), so I’m going to have to go read it. It really is interesting to see how evolving science can radically change how we see ourselves–if your attitudes can partially depend on infections, then what exactly are we? Could someone become succesful (or not) because of an infection which changes their way of thinking? This is a question that cries out for a philosophical discussion, but not by me.