What happens during fever?

F. Frank LeFever flefever at ix.netcom.com
Wed Jan 29 21:44:23 EST 1997


In <5clvon$qgs at dfw-ixnews9.ix.netcom.com> cambela at ix.netcom.com(A.
Campbell) writes: 
>
>Hi ,
>I was discussing fever with some parents on the ADHD newsgroup.
>Wondering why when a kid has a fever they seem to be more stimulated,
>mentally.  And I put my 2c in saying it has to do with increased
>metabolism, but I wonder if anyone here could be more specific than
>that, since I do not know where to find this info.  
>E-mail is good, I'll quote you, too.  Thanks in advance.
>Ann Campbell
>cambela at ix.netcom.com

I'll ask for some info, then I'll give some.

FIRST: (In the spirit of Mort Mishkin who once commented on something I
or another grad student said, "That's an interesting finding, if true")
(1) Is it true?  Is this a general observation?
(2) By "stimulated, mentally" do you really mean more attentive or more
    focused cognitively, not just bouncing off the wall more?  Did it  
    seem to have an effect similar to a pharmacological stimulant (e.g.
    Ritalin)?

SECOND: Here is what little I know about fever, and some speculations
based on  the aspect of it I have been interested in.

(1) Fever is very complex, but it seems to be mediated by IL-1
(interleukin-one),  a cytokine neuroimmunological agent which has too
many different actions (besides its role in fever) to mention here.

(2) Normally, IL-1 has an adverse effect on cognition (and indeed on
alertness; cf. its role in normal sleep).  It is produced in the brain 
(and elsewhere).  When administered exogenously (e.g. as a cancer
treatment) over a period of a few days, the pyrogenic effect subsides;
but although the fever passes, the impaired cognition (poor
cooncentration, memory problems, etc.) and "fatigue" persist--sometimes
being so severe as to preclude further treatment.

(3) Some of IL-l's effects are mediated by classical neurotransmitter
systems (via neural IL-1 receptors), so there may be an angle here,
involving IL-1 effects on noradrenergic neurons (or perhaps
dopaminergic), the presumed mechanism of ADD medications--but I'm not
prepared to figure it out this time of night (if ever)!

Interested in more ideas, more info.

Frank LeFever
New York Neuropsychology Group



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