Cytokines and Inflammation By Professor Michael Berk

Posted on: May 26, 2020
Last Updated: December 12, 2023

Professor Michael Berk is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and Alfred Deakin Chair of Psychiatry at Deakin University and Barwon Health, where he heads the IMPACT Strategic Research Centre. He holds an Honorary position at both Melbourne and Monash University and is a highly cited researcher with over 800 published papers predominantly in mood disorders. His major interests are in the discovery and implementation of novel therapies, and risk factors and prevention of psychiatric disorders.   

Author Quotes 

Those of you who know the autism treatment literature would know that there is close to nothing that reduces the symptoms of autism – there are no useful pharmacotherapies for autism, except this one.

[Regarding biomarker stratification] It may be that you have to have a biomarker that’s abnormal in order to give an anti-inflammatory agent. In other words, if you give an anti-inflammatory agent to someone who doesn’t have inflammation, it might be completely useless.


Prof Berk begins this video excerpt with a discussion of cytokines in depression and the association with inflammation. 

Starting with a study that used a brain imaging marker of neuroinflammation, Prof Berk presents data that reveal higher levels of inflammation in the brains of people who are depressed than in controls.[Setiawan E, et al. 2015] 

He moves on to discuss how inflammation is a risk for depression. 

He talks about how clinicians can address this and present data from various studies that investigated celecoxib treatment.[NA KS, et al. 2014, Asadabadi M, et al. 2013] 

Moving on, he discusses the results of a study of pioglitazone (which has anti-inflammatory properties) and the effect on depression,[Sepanjnia K, et al. 2012] along with a comparison with Metformin (no anti-inflammatory properties) to investigate whether insulin sensitization was a contributing factor. 

[Kashani L, et al. 2013] 

Prof Berk then presents some data on the use of aspirin in schizophrenia and in depression and shows how an old drug may be beneficial in areas of psychiatry not previously considered. 

Take-Home Points  

  • Inflammation has a number of very important effects in neuronal biology. 
  • Studies show interesting results for the use of aspirin in schizophrenia and depression, and also in lithium-associated sexual dysfunction in men. 
  • ASPREE is a 5-year study of 19,000 healthy individuals to investigate the effect of aspirin on a healthy lifespan and will look at dementia, stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.


Learn more

  1. NAC and Mitochondrial Abnormalities By Professor Michael Berk
  2. Effect of the Mediterranean Diet On Depression By Prof Michael Berk
  3. Early Life Nutrition and Neurodevelopment By Prof Michael Berk
  4. The Role of the Gut Microbiome and Diet in Depression – Prof Michael Berk
  5. Healthy Diet vs Nutraceuticals in Depression By Prof Michael Berk
  6. Effect of Diet and Lifestyle Changes in Depression By Prof Michael Berk
  7. Applications of N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) – From Addiction to Autism By Prof Berk
  8. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) in Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder- Prof Michael Berk
  9. Glutathione, Oxidative Stress and N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) in Psychiatric Disorders – Prof Michael Berk
  10. Oxidative and Inflammatory Biomarkers As Targets For Novel Therapies – Prof Michael Berk
  11. Is There a Role for Statin Therapy in Psychiatry? – Professor Michael Berk




  1. Setiawan E, et al. Role of translocator protein density, a marker of neuroinflammation, in the brain during major depressive episodes. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;72(3):268-75
  2. Pasco JA, et al. Association of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein with de novo major depression. Br J Psychiatry. 2010 Nov;197(5):372-7. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.109.076430.
  3. Na KS, et al. Efficacy of adjunctive celecoxib treatment for patients with major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jan 3;48:79-85. Erratum in: Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 3;66:136. 
  4. Asadabadi M, et al. Celecoxib as adjunctive treatment to risperidone in children with autistic disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl).2013 Jan;225(1):51-9.
  5. Sepanjnia K, et al. Pioglitazone adjunctive therapy for moderate-to-severe major depressive disorder: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Aug;37(9):2093-100.
  6. Kashani L, et al. Does pioglitazone improve depression through insulin-sensitization? Results of a randomized double-blind metformin-controlled trial in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome and comorbid depression. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(6):767-76. 
  7. Laan W, et al. Adjuvant aspirin therapy reduces symptoms of schizophrenia spectrum disorders: results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2010 May;71(5):520-7.