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Scientists Find Link Between Gut Bacteria and How the Brain Works

A week from today, researchers will gather for a neuroscience conference in Washington D.C. titled "Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience."

A week from today, researchers will gather for a neuroscience conference in Washington D.C. titled "Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience." As the name suggests, new evidence will presented by the scientific community to help establish an emerging link between the health of your gut and the health of your brain.

One team of researchers from University College Cork in Ireland will argue that the microbiome--the name for the billions of bacteria swimming in your large intestine--has the greatest effect on the brain in infancy. In experiments, the researchers found that mice born through their mother's vagina, as opposed to by cesarian section, exhibited less depression and less anxiety. They believe this is because vaginal birth is the first exposure an infant has to bacteria.

Another study conducted in 2013 found that mice with lower levels of the gut bacterium called Bacteroides fragilis showed a tendency toward autism. They were also more stressed, antisocial and had gastrointestinal symptoms associated with autism. When scientists fed B. fragilis to the mice, their symptoms disappeared. 

"That observation raises the possibility that some people with autism could be supported with therapies, such as probiotics, that target the gut instead of the brain, which is a much more complex and inaccessible organ."

In her Big Think interview, popular science writer Mary Roach describes a day in the life of your gut bacteria:

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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Mystery effect speeds up the universe – not dark energy, says study

Russian astrophysicists propose the Casimir Effect causes the universe's expansion to accelerate.

Black hole accretion disk visualization.

Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman
Surprising Science
  • Astrophysicists from Russia propose a theory that says dark energy doesn't exist.
  • Instead, the scientists think the Casimir Effect creates repulsion.
  • This effect causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
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Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

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