Background: According to the views of psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology, many interactions exist between nervous, endocrine and immune system the purpose of which is to achieve adaptive measures restoring an internal equilibrium (homeostasis) following stress conditions. The center where these interactions converge is the hypothalamus. This is a center of the autonomic nervous system that controls the visceral systems, including the immune system, through both the nervous and neuroendocrine mechanisms. The nervous mechanisms are based on nervous circuits that bidirectionally connect hypothalamic neurons and neurons of the sympathetic and parasympathetic system; the neuroendocrine mechanisms are based on the release by neurosecretory hypothalamic neurons of hormones that target the endocrine cells and on the feedback effects of the hormones secreted by these endocrine cells on the same hypothalamic neurons. Moreover, the hypothalamus is an important subcortical center of the limbic system that controls through nervous and neuroendocrine mechanisms the areas of the cerebral cortex where the psychic functions controlling mood, emotions, anxiety and instinctive behaviors take place. Accordingly, various studies conducted in the last decades have indicated that hypothalamic diseases may be associated with immune and/or psychic disorders.
Objective: Various researches have reported that the hypothalamus is controlled by the cerebellum through a feedback nervous circuit, namely the hypothalamocerebellar circuit, which bi-directionally connects regions of the hypothalamus, including the immunoregulatory ones, and related regions of the cerebellum. An objective of the present review was to analyze the anatomical bases of the nervous and neuroendocrine mechanisms for the control of the immune system and, in particular, of the interaction between hypothalamus and cerebellum to achieve the immunoregulatory function.
Conclusion: Since the hypothalamus represents the link through which the immune functions may influence the psychic functions and vice versa, the cerebellum, controlling several regions of the hypothalamus, could be considered as a primary player in the regulation of the multiple functional interactions postulated by psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology.
Keywords: Immune system, hypothalamus, cerebellum, hypothalamocerebellar circuit, multilayered fibers, psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology.