Gut bacteria may influence brain chemistry and behaviour

For the first time, scientists have evidence to support a little known theory that gut bacteria can influence brain chemistry. Although many people know that there is a link between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system, fewer people are aware that the central nervous system can influence the microbiota of the gut, and vice versa.

Researchers at McMaster University worked with healthy mice to show that disrupting the normal balance of bacteria in the gut with antibiotics caused changes in the mice’s behaviour. There was an accompanying increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which has been linked to depression and anxiety. When the antibiotics were discontinued, the gut bacteria returned to normal and so did behaviour and brain chemistry.

Animal studies have also shown that stress can change the composition of the microbiota, where the changes are associated with increased vulnerability to inflammatory stimuli in the gastrointestinal tract.

While previous research has focused on the role bacteria play on brain development in early life, this research confirms that the nature and stability of gut bacteria influence behaviour, and alteration from antibiotics or infection produces changes in behaviour.

Source: Gastroenterology


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