A research team from the McMasters University, Ontario believe they have evidence that the microbial composition of the gut directly influences behaviour & the biochemistry of the brain. The research team found that when the gut flora of mice was manipulated using antibiotics, the mice had an increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has long been linked to anxiety & depression. In the experiment, the scientists observed two groups of mice, one study group was bred completely sterile whilst the other group was bred pathogen free & with healthy microbiota. The scientists noted that the sterile group were notably more passive and inactive than those with healthy microbiota. However, when the sterile group was administered with the same bacteria as the active mice they became more daring and exploratory. Conversely, when the active mice were given antibiotics they became more passive and inactive. The research team concluded that intestinal dysbiosis may well contribute to mental health conditions in patients with bowel disorders. Though much further research is needed, the findings might indicate probiotics could play a role in treating mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Reference: Bercik, P. et al (2011) The Intestinal Microbiota Affect Central Levels of Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor and Behaviour in Mice. Journal of Gastroenerology. Published online 02 May 2011


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