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Infectious Behavior: Brain-Immune Connections in Autism, Schizophrenia, and Depression Hardcover – September 9, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Finally someone is looking at the whole picture, not just one pathogen or disease at a time. In his paradigm-shifting book, Paul Patterson explains the dynamic interaction between the immune system, the brain, and development, unveiling an important new understanding of what may underlie many devastating brain disorders. Infectious Behavior opens the door to a whole new way of thinking about the causes and cures for some of the most challenging brain disorders, giving us much cause for hope.

(Portia Iversen, cofounder, Cure Autism Now Foundation (CAN), cofounder, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), founder, International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR))

Paul Patterson is attempting to describe a new field of study of which he himself is the leading pioneer. A summation of the field at the present is not currently available, either in other books or in journal articles, and therefore this book will fill an important niche. Patterson's efforts are unique in that they bridge the basic science and clinical world in a way that no other researcher in this field has done. This is a welcome addition to the field and a book that I will clearly want to buy and recommend.

(Robert Freedman, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado)

Neuroscience is one of the most exciting fields in science currently. Within neuroscience, one of the hottest research topics is the link between the immune system and the brain. Paul Patterson provides a lucid and up-to-the-minute account of this field. The research has profound implications for our understanding of disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

(John McGrath, Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland)

A chapter is devoted to an evidence-based review of the theory of a connection between vaccinations and autism. For this chapter alone, this book is worth a recommendation. This well-written book is good for anyone interested in behavior, disease, maternal-child health, and public health.

(Library Journal)

His title is a little daunting, but neurobiologist Patterson has succeeded in his aim of crafting an accessible, even fascinating, book about one of the hottest topics in mental health. In the long-running nature versus nurture argument, our era is all about nature. There is no one left -- no one with scientific credentials, at least -- who believes the way we nurture our offspring (cold mothers, distant fathers) creates autistic or schizophrenic children. But nature for too many people, experts and laypersons alike, means our genes alone. And they, Patterson shows, are not the whole story. He notes how the final health effects from the great flu pandemic of 1918, which killed more people than the Great War, played out very recently. Those who were in their mothers' wombs during the pandemic went on to a lifetime of health and socio-economic problems disproportionately worse than those of children born before or after: lower educational achievement and lower incomes, higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. Those outcomes are suggestive of the virus's effect on fetal brain development; the fact they often did not appear before adulthood supports the emerging hypothesis of the fetal origins of many adult diseases. Patterson describes the womb as a 'battlefield,' in which a fetus has to struggle to fend off rejection by the mother's immune system. Infection, which ramps up the immune response, can have devastating effects on fetal brains. The latest studies indicate that the risk of schizophrenia among the male offspring of women who come down with the flu during the first half of their pregnancies is three to seven times higher than usual. Patterson notes that common-sense ways to cut down on flu infection are widely known -- wash your hands and avoid airplane flights if at all possible -- but often ignored, even by pregnant women, because the stakes seem so small. He's done his best to correct that assumption.


Neurobiologist Paul Patterson, PhD, has produced a remarkably accessible and enjoyable book that intertwines history, case studies and laboratory science.... It's an engaging and thought-provoking read for nonscientists and scientists alike.

(Autism Speaks blog)

For the non-expert, this field can be more intimidating than a box of jumbled Christmas decorations. In Infectious Behavior: Brain-Immune Connections in Autism, Schizophrenia, and Depression, biologist Paul Patterson nimbly untangles the strings of lights.

(Virginia Hughes, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative)

The book is simultaneously accessible to the lay reader and insightful to the reader with more expertise. It flows like a professor who rolls up his sleeves and delivers an engaging talk to his audience without once looking at his slides. [It] is a well written, enjoyable read for any audience.

(Brain, Behavior, and Immunity)

Patterson's book is so clear and compelling that it will appeal to clinicians awaiting novel disease models with new opportunities for prevention and cure, family members endlessly pondering the source of their loved one's ailment, and any reader who enjoys medical detective stories. A lucid synthesis of historical and current thinking about 'infectious' routes to mental illness.

(American Journal of Psychiatry)

About the Author

Paul H. Patterson, a developmental neurobiologist, is Anne P. and Benjamin R. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences at the California Institute of Technology and a Research Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. He is the coauthor (with Alan Brown) of The Origins of Schizophrenia.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (September 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262016451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262016452
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,285,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul H. Patterson is the Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. He is a midwesterner who received his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College in Iowa, and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He is director of the Caltech joint MD/PhD programs with UCLA and USC. Current research topics in his group include a mouse model of mental illness based on the risk factor of maternal infection, the use of antibodies to treat Huntington's disease, and the mobilization of endogenous neural stem cells in the adult brain for remyelination in a model of multiple sclerosis. Patterson is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the recipient of a Distinguished Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and a McKnight Foundation Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award. He also received the W. Alden Spencer Award from the Center for Neuroscience, Columbia University, and a Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke Council. He was the Ulf von Euler Lecturer at the Karolinska Institute, the Jerome Sutin Lecturer at Emory University, the Burton Baker Lecturer at the University of Michigan, the James Cuozzo Memorial Lecturer at the Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health of the University of Pennsylvania, and was a visiting Professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. Dr. Patterson has received several teaching awards at Caltech. He is currently serving on the scientific advisory boards of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, the John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation, the International Rett Syndrome Foundation, and the Autism Speaks Foundation.
He is co-author with Alan Brown of "The Origins of Schizophrenia", just published by Columbia University Press.
The blog for "Infectious Behavior" can be found at:
A video of a talk based on this work given several years ago can be found at:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By AttorneyAuthor on November 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have a highlighter handy as you read this book because it is packed full of must-have information. The compelling, concise reporting of study after study demonstrating the link between mental health and the immune system is an eye opener. While some of the text may be a bit beyond those of us who are not doctors or researchers, the vast majority of the book is so understandable and engrossing that it is hard to put down. As a reference tool, it's invaluable. Solidly backed by research, this book offers a captivating & thorough look at how brain development and functioning is directly related to the health of the immune system. I have relentlessly advocated for the fact that an infection can cause mental illness because I am the author of Saving Sammy: A Mother's Fight to Cure Her Son's OCD. Infectious Behavior makes it easier for me to continue to insist that when the body mounts an immune response to a strep infection, the result can be a behavioral disorder commonly known as PANDAS. This book puts it all together in one place, and I highly recommend it. Beth Alison Maloney Saving Sammy: A Mother's Fight to Cure Her Son's OCD
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gayle Farrow on November 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As the mother of a son who has been diagnosed with autism and a daughter who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder, I found this book fascinating. Dr. Paul Patterson presents the latest scientific research on the causes of these disorders in a way that I can understand. One part of the research that really stood out for me was that women who catch the flu while pregnant have an increased risk of giving birth to children with autism and schizophrenia, as I had the flu during both of my pregnancies. I hope that mothers-to-be will read this book and take Dr. Patterson's advice about wearing a mask in public places to minimize the risk of catching respiratory infections.
While my children have benefitted from behavioral therapy and medication, I was encouraged to read that there are many new medical treatments being studied that can reverse structural abnormalities in the brain and may prevent symptoms from ever even developing. I particularly enjoyed the final chapter, Reasons for Optimism, in which Dr. Patterson describes some of the most promising research in the field of developmental neurobiology. To quote Dr. Patterson, "There is hope!"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Adolphs on March 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Neurobiologist Paul Patterson has written a fascinating book that should appeal equally to the educated lay person and the expert. As a neurobiologist working on autism myself, I found the book at once very scholarly and extremely good reading. It is full of interesting stories, deftly juxtaposes historical descriptions with cutting-edge findings, and provides a very clear account of how immune and nervous systems interact. It is in my view the best book in its category, and one of the very best in general in communicating new biological findings to a broad audience. Bravo!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John on June 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Patterson presents a completely new paradigm in autism research and its importance has again and again been reinforced by a plethora of research that has been published since the book was published. The recognition that autism has at it's heart the immune system will challenge many preconceived ideas surrounding genetics.

The book is easily accessible to most people with a science background although it may be heavier going for those without. Patterson's writing style makes it easily digestible within a day and then I would suggest a further reflective look at each of the chapters that are presented.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bill Jones on March 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The science is indeed fascinating but this book is written like a science article that's had some of the jargon explained. A ghost writer or a better editor and more human data would do this book worlds of good. Looking forward to the sequel...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Theta on January 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. Perfect for anyone working with patients, even without a diagnosis, as no matter who one visits, there seems to be more and more people afflicted with one of the problems in the book. Thank you.
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