'Knowing it in your gut' is real

March 23, 2011

A lot of chatter goes on inside each one of us and not all of it happens between our ears.

Researchers at McMaster University discovered that the "cross-talk" between bacteria in our gut and our plays an important role in the development of psychiatric illness, intestinal diseases and probably other health problems as well including obesity.

"The wave of the future is full of opportunity as we think about how or bacteria influence the brain and how the bi-directional communication of the body and the brain influence , such as obesity and diabetes," says Jane Foster, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

Using germ-free mice, Foster's research shows influences how the brain is wired for learning and memory. The research paper has been published in the March issue of the science journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility.

The study's results show that genes linked to learning and memory are altered in germ-free mice and, in particular, they are altered in one of the key for learning and memory – the hippocampus.

"The take-home message is that gut bacteria influences anxiety-like behavior through alterations in the way the brain is wired," said Foster.

Foster's laboratory is located in the Brain-Body Institute, a joint research initiative of McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton. The institute was created to advance understanding of the relationship between the brain, nervous system and bodily disorders.

"We have a hypothesis in my lab that the state of your immune system and your gut bacteria – which are in constant communication – influences your personality," Foster said.

She said psychiatrists, in particular, are interested in her research because of the problems of side effects with current drug therapy.

"The idea behind this research is to see if it's possible to develop new therapies which could target the body, free of complications related to getting into the brain," Foster said. "We need novel targets that take a different approach than what is currently on the market for . Those targets could be the immune system, your gut function…we could even use the body to screen patients to say what drugs might work better in their brain."

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5 comments

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satyricon
3 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2011
This is extremely important research and I am thrilled there are more and more studies published on this subject. Gut bacteria is vital for a a healthy immune system and a healthy nervous system. 90% of the seratonin is produced in the gut and that alone can affect the bahaviour of the individual. I hope to see more on this topic! Perhaps gut bacteria influences our consciousness.
Pattern_chaser
1 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2011
At last we're undoing Descartes' separation of body and mind, and taking seriously the intimacy of the two. If we look, we will surely find many more unsuspected interactions between body and mind.
MikeGroovy
5 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2011
Reminds me of Futurama's Parasites Lost.. The one with the space worms.

PinkElephant
not rated yet Mar 26, 2011
Reminds me of Futurama's Parasites Lost.. The one with the space worms.
Looks like we are what we eat much more so than we ever suspected...
ziphead
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2011
...90% of the seratonin is produced in the gut and that alone can affect the bahaviour of the individual...


Ever heard of the blood brain barrier? It is there for a reason.

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