Fever or fever-associated illness in children with autism is reported to result in temporary relief of cognitive and behavioral symptoms. It remains unknown, however, which aspects of this phenomenon — such as temperature increase, immune activation, type of pathogen or type of autism — are important for this benefit to occur.
Jonathan Kipnis and his colleagues at the University of Virginia aim to address these questions in mouse models of autism. They plan to combine exploratory and targeted approaches to elucidate the details of fever-induced benefits and potential molecular mechanisms for the phenomenon.
Kipnis and his group plan to study the activation, phenotype and cytokine profile of the immune cells in meningeal spaces of the brain in response to illness-associated fever compared with illness-independent fever and increased body temperature. Kipnis’ lab and others made major leaps in understanding the role of meningeal immunity in learning behavior in mice. The effect of fever on meningeal immunity may provide molecular insights into fever-mediated cognitive improvements observed in children with autism.
Understanding why fever improves behavior in autism may reveal new aspects of autism pathology and new treatment targets.