Studies Explore Relationship Between the Gut Microbiome and the Brain
Targeting gut bacteria may help treat stress, anxiety, and depression
CHICAGO — Research released today reveals new insights into the important two-way communication that takes place between the brain and the bacteria residing in the gut. The findings demonstrate how acute, chronic, and prenatal stress can alter the bacterial populations in the gut and how these changes might impact responses to physiological and psychological stress. The studies were presented at Neuroscience 2015, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
The human body has 10 times more bacterial cells living within it than human cells. The gut microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living within the gastrointestinal tract, is vital for immune function and metabolism.
Today’s new findings show that:
- A probiotic, a supplement containing live bacteria that provides health benefits, reduced physiological and psychological stress and improved memory in a small study of healthy men, suggesting a potential new approach to treating psychological disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and depression (Andrew Allen, abstract 162.04, see attached summary).
- Prenatal stress changes the vaginal microbiome of pregnant mice and the altered bacteria are transferred to the gut microbiome of male offspring during delivery, altering their response to stress in adulthood (Eldin Jasarevic, abstract 248.01, see attached summary).
- Mice lacking the serotonin transporter have different gut microbiome and different behavioral responses to an inflammatory substance when compared with wild-type mice, suggesting a role of serotonin in regulating the microbiome’s response to stress (Briana Kille, abstract 162.12, see attached summary).
- Chronic stress alters the gut microbiome of mice, potentially making the effects of stress worse (Aaron Shoskes, abstract 162.13, see attached summary).
“Today’s findings continue to highlight the importance of the interaction between the gut and the brain,” said Robert Yolken, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, an expert in the role of infections in psychiatric diseases. “A better understanding of this link will inform new strategies for preventing and treating many psychological disorders.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as other private and philanthropic organizations. Find out more about the microbiome and the brain at BrainFacts.org.