The fascinating capacity that the central nervous system (CNS) has for encoding and retaining memories is thought to be based on activity-dependent forms of synaptic plasticity. The CNS and the immune systems are known to be engaged in an intense bidirectional crosstalk, and glial cells are now viewed as a crucial third element of the synapse. In this opinion article, we review the principal mechanisms by which the immune system, and in particular immune diffusible mediators, influences synaptic transmission and the induction of brain plastic phenomena. Thereafter, we consider the potential implications of inflammation-related overexpression of diffusible mediators in the disruption of synaptic plastic processes and neuronal networks functioning during human neurological diseases. Finally, we propose that a more accurate characterization of the mechanisms underlying the immune-mediated control of synaptic plasticity could represent, in the future, the basis for the development of a novel immune-centred therapeutic approach to neurological disorders.
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