It is now well established that the nervous system and immune system speak a common biochemical language and communicate via a complete bidirectional circuit involving shared ligands such as neurotransmitters, neuroendocrine hormones, cytokines, and the respective receptors. Thus, neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and cytokines represent the signaling molecules relaying chemical information and depending on the stimulus either neurons or immune cells can be the initial source. The chemical information in turn can be received by both neurons and immune cells since they share receptor repertoires. This complete biochemical information circuit between neurons and immune cells allows the immune system to function as a sensory organ (Blalock 1994).
A sixth sense, if you will, that completes our ability to be cognizant not only of the universe of things we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell but also the other universe of things we cannot. These would include bacteria, viruses, antigens, tumor cells, and other agents that are too small to see or touch, make no noise, have no taste or odor. Recognition of such "noncognitive stimuli" by the immune system would result in transmission of information to the CNS via the aforementioned shared signal molecules to cause a physiological response that is ultimately beneficial to the host and detrimental to the infectious agent.
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