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Surprising Science

Gut Bacteria Alters Your Brain Chemistry

The role of gut bacteria may extend beyond the stomach and intestines all the way to the brain. In a new study, disrupting the normal gut flora of mice leads to changes in the animals’ behavior.

What’s the Latest Development?

Published in the journal Gastroenterology, a study on the relationship between gut bacteria and brain chemistry in mice has found the two are related in surprising ways. Disrupting the normal gut flora of the mice led to a change in the animals’ behavior, making them less timid and more adventurous, as well as leading to changes in their brain chemistry. “‘It may be that those changes in gut bacteria not only contribute to the generation of gut symptoms, like diarrhea or pain, but may also contribute to this altered behavior that we see in those patients,” said researcher Stephen Collins, of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.”

What’s the Big Idea?

If the physiological behavior of the mice turns out to be similar to that of humans, the research could explain why some gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, are often associated with disorders that can affect behavior, including depression and anxiety. “If gut bacteria play some role in human behavior as well, it’s possible therapies that aim to restore normal gut flora, such as probiotics, may be helpful in correcting behavior and mood changes in those with gastrointestinal diseases, Collins said.”


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