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Left brain damage may make people more vulnerable to infection

A major immunological difference between the opposite halves of the human brain is now confirmed in a study published May 24, 2004 in the online edition of the Annals of Neurology. Researchers have found that damage or surgery to the left half of the brain may make a right-handed person more susceptible to being immunocompromised.

The results might help to explain intriguing earlier findings that suggested people who had strokes on the left side of their brains were more susceptible to infections.

"These findings raise the possibility that doctors need to be more aggressive in protecting patients from infection following strokes or surgery on the left side of the brain," said study director Kimford J. Meador, MD, of Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Are you a right-brain person--creative, emotional, big picture--or a left-brain person--logical, detail-oriented, practical?

The idea that the two halves of our brains are fundamentally different has settled comfortably in our imaginations, thanks equally to science fiction and self-help books. But beyond a predominant role in language for the left half, scientists have had a hard time pinning down what these differences mean for how our brain works.

Animal studies have shown distinct differences in how the two brain halves are linked to the immune system. Several years ago, Meador and his colleagues found preliminary evidence of similar differences in humans, which could be of great significance for medicine.

"The immune and nervous systems are interlinked, influencing each other in complex ways that we are just beginning to understand," said Meador.

In the present study, the researchers examined how the immune system responded to surgery on either side of the brain, following the progress of 22 epilepsy patients who had parts of their brain surgically removed in an attempt to control debilitating seizures.

Most patients who had surgery on
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Contact: David Greenberg
dgreenbe@wiley.com
201-748-6484
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
24-May-2004


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