What the Flu Does to Your Brain, According to a Sick Scientist, According to a Sick Scientist
Flu checklist: a dozen boxes of tissues, oversized sweatshirt from a college you didn’t go to, an orange juice IV, three buckets (one for depositing used tissues, one full of a medley of cough drops and Nyquill, and and one for when the medicine comes back up), and a general animosity toward the universe for making you feel like a sack of rotten mayonnaise. Got everything? Good. Here is exactly what’s happening in your brain as you fight everyone’s favorite seasonal asshole: the flu](https://www.inverse.com/article/41140-cdc-reports-2017-2018-flu-season-will-get-worse-hospitalizations-deaths).
For starters, don’t get too angry at your brain and body, they’re just trying to help. When pyrogens make their way to your hypothalamus to warn of infection, your brain kicks up the temperature, hence your fever. Your hypothalamus is also the culprit responsible for making you feel cold and shivery, as it uses vasoconstriction and muscle contraction throughout your body.
Certain neurotransmitters, or lack thereof, are to blame for why you feel so crummy when you have the flu. The influenza virus affects your serotonin levels, which helps regulate your mood. It also affects your norepinephrine levels, which keep you alert and awake. Now, you are a sluggish, couch-dwelling creature from the flu lagoon.
Join Shannon Odell, a neuroscience Ph..D. candidate at Weill Cornell Medical College, as she attempts to fight through her own sickness to explain the flu’s real effects on your brain.