Does our gut control our brain?

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Altering the gut microbiome can trigger behavioral changes

Humans are teeming with bacteria. The ones living in our guts are particular important because they can dramatically influence our health, both positively and negatively.

However, recent research shows that gut bacteria might have a much stronger impact than we thought.

In a study newly published in eLife, scientists found that the gut could influence the brain and behavior in mice.

The research involved four groups of non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. Every day, group 1 were fed water through a tube, group 2 were fed antibiotics with a tube, group 3 were injected with saline, and group 4 were injected with antibiotics.

Scientists then tested the behavior of all groups, and found that the group fed with water through a tube changed their behavior. These mice became less social and more despairing. Other groups, however, had no obvious change.

Taking a further look, researchers found that the gut bacteria in the mice fed by water changed slightly, whereas the gut microbiome of the mice that had been fed antibiotics changed more.

They also checked the brain regions in the water-fed mice, and found that the medial prefrontal cortex, a region related to depression, had a genetic expression similar to that in mice that were isolated for prolonged periods.

Next, researchers transplanted the gut bacteria from a water-fed mouse to a normal mouse, and found that the normal mouse became less social and more despairing.

This confirmed that the gut bacteria were responsible for the behavioral changes observed.

Taken together, the study suggests that microbiome can overrule genetics and change the brain’s chemistry and activity.


Citation: Kuntz T, Gilbert J. (2016). Does the brain listen to the gut? Elife. 5:e17052. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.17052
Gacias M, Gaspari S, Mae-Santos P, Tamburini S, Andrade M, Zang F, Shen N, Tolstikov V, Kiebish MA, Dupree JL, Zachariou V, Clemente JC, Casaccia P. 2016. Microbiota-driven transcriptional changes in prefrontal cortex override genetic differences in social behavior. eLife 5:e13442. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.13442
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is derived from the cited article “Kuntz T, Gilbert J. (2016). Does the brain listen to the gut? Elife. 5:e17052. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.17052” under CC-BY license.