Common probiotics can reduce stress levels, lessen anxiety

November 21, 2016, University of Missouri-Columbia
Using a zebrafish model, Daniel Davis and a research team from the University of Missouri determined that a common probiotic sold in supplements and yogurt can decrease stress-related behavior and anxiety. Credit: MU College of Veterinary Medicine

Probiotics, or beneficial live bacteria that are introduced into the body, have become increasingly popular as a way to improve health and well-being. Previous studies have shown a direct correlation between gut microbes and the central nervous system. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri, using a zebrafish model, determined that a common probiotic sold in supplements and yogurt can decrease stress-related behavior and anxiety. Studying how gut bacteria affect behavior in zebrafish could lead to a better understanding of how probiotics may affect the central nervous system in humans. Their results recently were published in Scientific Reports.

"Zebrafish are an emerging model species for neurobehavioral studies and their use is well-established in drug-screening," said Aaron Ericsson, director of the MU Metagenomics Center and a research assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. "Our study has shown that simple probiotics that we normally use to keep our digestive tract in sync, could be beneficial to reducing our stress levels as well."

In a series of studies, researchers tested how zebrafish behaved after doses of Lactobacillus plantarum, a common bacteria found in yogurt and probiotic supplements. In the first study, scientists added the bacteria to certain tanks housing zebrafish; other tanks of zebrafish received no probiotics. Then, the researchers introduced environmental stressors to both groups, such as draining small amounts of water from the tank and overcrowding.

"Each day we introduced a different stressor—tests that are validated by other researchers and cause higher anxiety among zebrafish," said Elizabeth Bryda, professor of veterinary pathobiology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. "These are common environmental stress patterns, such as isolation stress and temperature change, so it made the tests relevant to humans as well."

Probiotics, or beneficial live bacteria that are introduced into the body, have become increasingly popular as a way to improve health and well-being. Previous studies have shown a direct correlation between gut microbes and the central nervous system. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri, using a zebrafish model, determined that a common probiotic sold in supplements and yogurt can decrease stress-related behavior and anxiety. Studying how gut bacteria affect behavior in zebrafish could lead to a better understanding of how probiotics may affect the central nervous system in humans. Their results recently were published in Scientific Reports. Credit: MU News Bureau

By analyzing the gene pathways of both groups of fish, the research team found that zebrafish that were given the supplements showed a reduction in the metabolic pathways associated with stress.

"By measuring the genes associated with stress and anxiety, our tests were able to predict how this common probiotic is able to benefit behavioral responses in these fish," said Daniel Davis, assistant director of the MU Animal Modeling Core. "Essentially, bacteria in the gut altered the gene expression associated with stress- and anxiety-related pathways in the fish allowing for increased signaling of particular neurotransmitters."

To test their theory further, the researchers measured the movements of fish in their tanks using sophisticated computer measuring and imaging tools. Previous studies of fish behavior have found that fish that are stressed tend to spend more time at the bottom of their tanks. Once the were administered probiotics, they tended to spend more time toward the top of the tanks—the change in behavior indicating they were less stressed or less anxious.

"Using zebrafish, we've developed a relatively inexpensive platform for testing of other species of bacteria and and their potential benefit on different systems of the body," Ericsson said.

The study, "Lactobacillus plantarum attenuates anxiety-related behavior and protects against stress-induced dysbiosis in adult ," was published in Scientific Reports.

Explore further: Probiotics mitigate stress in medical students at exam time

More information: Daniel J. Davis et al. Lactobacillus plantarum attenuates anxiety-related behavior and protects against stress-induced dysbiosis in adult zebrafish, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep33726

Related Stories

Probiotics mitigate stress in medical students at exam time

May 9, 2016
A probiotic given to medical students during the run-up to nationwide medical school examinations reduced stress among the students. "The probiotic strain, Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota can relieve many aspects of the ...

Multivitamins on the outs, but these supplements are in

October 26, 2016
Watch out multivitamins, here comes vitamin D, fish oil and probiotics.

Research examines role of early-life stress in adult illness

October 24, 2016
Scientists have long known that chronic exposure to psychosocial stress early in life can lead to an increased vulnerability later in life to diseases linked to immune dysfunction and chronic inflammation, including arthritis, ...

Recommended for you

How returning to a prior context briefly heightens memory recall

December 11, 2018
Whether it's the pleasant experience of returning to one's childhood home over the holidays or the unease of revisiting a site that proved unpleasant, we often find that when we return to a context where an episode first ...

The importins of anxiety

December 11, 2018
According to some estimates, up to one in three people around the world may experience severe anxiety in their lifetime. In a study described today in Cell Reports, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have revealed ...

Neurons in the brain work as a team to guide movement of arms, hands

December 11, 2018
The apparent simplicity of picking up a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob belies the complex sequence of calculations and processes that the brain must undergo to identify the location of an item in space, move the arm ...

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

Study: Age, race differences determine risk of stroke in women and men

December 11, 2018
A new study found that, between the ages of 45 and 74 years, white women were less likely to have a stroke than white men, but at age 75 and older, there was no difference in stroke risk between white women and men. In contrast, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.