The acute-phase reaction is the multisystem response to acute inflammation. The central nervous system (CNS) mediates a coordinated set of autonomic, endocrine and behavioral responses that constitute the cerebral component of the acute-phase reaction. However, the mechanisms of immune signaling of the CNS remain controversial. Emerging evidence indicates that different parts of the acute-phase reaction are initiated by distinct mechanisms and in different brain regions. Cytokines produced as a result of local infections (for example, in the abdominal or thoracic cavities) might activate vagal sensory fibers, resulting in sickness behavior and fevers. Additionally, circulating immune stimuli might activate meningeal macrophages and perivascular microglia along the borders of the brain, eliciting the local production of prostaglandins and responses such as fever, anorexia, sleepiness, and activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The biological importance of these responses might favor the existence of multiple parallel CNS pathways that are engaged by cytokines.
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