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Stressed Spleen

November 15, 2016

What does the spleen have to do with anxiety?



The anxious spleen. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

New research into stressed out rats has discovered a brain/spleen connection. At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Ohio State researcher Jonathan Godbout and his colleagues report that stressful situations cause the spleen to store up inflammatory white blood cells. A month later, just a mild reminder of that stress triggers a release of those cells, which travel to the brain and cause fresh feelings of extreme anxiety.  

JONATHAN GODBOUT (The Ohio State University):

I can tell you that if I take that spleen out of that animal, we can’t re-occur stress. We can’t cause the reoccurrence of stress, if I remove the whole spleen.


Other research suggests there may be similar effects in people. Godbout says that if that’s the case, the spleen could play a role in post traumatic stress syndrome, and other anxiety related psychological conditions, and could be a new target for treatment. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon