Can Gut Bacteria Make You Smarter?
Your microbiome - the trillions of bacterial cells that live in you and on you - have a profound impact on your body, your life and health, and even your brain. Many of these cells play an active role in digesting food and preventing infection. There is even some evidence to suggest that they can even affect your mind and mental health.
According to John Cryan, this isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. As a professor of anatomy and neuroscience at University College Cork, he specialises in the relationship between the brain and the gut. One of his early experiments showed the diversity of bacteria living in the gut was greatly diminished in mice suffering from early life stress. This finding inspired him to investigate the connection between the microbiome and the brain.
The bacterial microbiota in the gut helps normal brain development, says Cryan. “If you don’t have microbiota you have major changes in brain structure and function, and then also in behaviour.” In a pioneering study, a Japanese research team showed that mice raised without any gut bacteria had an exaggerated physical response to stress, releasing more hormone than mice that had a full complement of bacteria. However, this effect could be reduced in bacteria-free mice by repopulating their gut with Bifidobacterium infantis, one of the major symbiotic bacteria found in the gut. Cryan’s team built on this finding, showing that this effect could be reproduced even in healthy mice.
But why should bacteria in the gut affect the brain? There are several different ways that messages can be sent from one organ to the other. It can be hormones or immune cells via the bloodstream, or by impulses along the vagus nerve, which stretches from the brain to intertwine closely with the gut. Through these pathways, actions in one produce effects in the other.
So how might you go about altering your microbiome to do a spot of brain-hacking? Cryan’s team works on several fronts, investigating the potential to manage stress, pain, obesity and cognition through the gut. “We have unpublished data showing that probiotics can enhance learning in animal models,” he tells [BBC].
A study by University College Cork researchers published in Nature in 2012 followed 200 elderly people over the course of two years, as they transitioned into different environments such as nursing homes. The researchers found that their subjects’ health – frailty, cognition, and immune system – all correlated with their microbiome. From bacterial population alone, researchers could tell if a patient was a long-stay patient in a nursing home, or short-stay, or living in the general community.
(Blood Music by Greg Bear)
Greg Bear anticipated all of these ideas in his 1984 novel Blood Music. In the novel, biotechnology nerd Vergil Ullam created intelligent cells that he eventually injected into his own body, where they soon began reengineering structures to suit themselves:
"Your skeleton first," Edward said. His eyes widened...
"Look at my spine," Vergil suggested. Edward slowly rotated the image on the screen.
Buckminster Fuller came to mind immediately. It was fantastic. Vergil's spine was a cage of triangular bones, coming together in ways Edward could not even follow...
"See?" Vergil said. "I'm being rebuilt from the inside out..."
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/27/2014)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
BrainEx Restores Some Activity To Severed Pig Head
'... they placed the brain in a special solution, having all the properties of Nursing the brain cells.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1929.
Purdue Pharma Ready To Profit From OxyContin Use Or Addiction Recovery
'It may be organic damage. It may be permanent. Time'll tell, and only after you are off Substance D for a long while.' - Philip K. Dick, 1977.
Organaut! Russians 3D Print Living Tissue In Space
'For a while your colonists will have to come up [to orbit] to the Hospital...' - Larry Niven, 1968.
MIT Scientists Create 'Peek-a-Boo Prober' From Jetsons
Well, George, it's the latest thing.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
BrainEx Restores Some Activity To Severed Pig Head
'... they placed the brain in a special solution, having all the properties of Nursing the brain cells.'
Yes, But Do Astrobees Have Lasers For Lightsaber Training?
'... Ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.'
'Young Razorbacks Before Their Katanas Grow In'
'Twin robotic arms with gleaming three-foot sword blades unfolded from the forward hydraulic assemblies...'
A New Way To Run Into Things
'He made an adjustment, pointed the tube at the wall beside Etzwane, and projected a cone of light.'
'Metallic Wood' Strong Like Titanium, Floats In Water
'A metal... light as cork and stronger than steel...'
Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.'
Abundant Robotics Autonomous Apple Harvester Robot
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant... cutting off the ripe fruit.'
Charging An Electric Car In 2019 (Video), 1912 (Photo) And 1894 (Fiction)
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'
Japan Uses Explosives On Asteroid
'...a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk. It hit, exploding into a cloud of incandescent vapour.'
Get Your Speeder Flying Motorcycle From Jetpack Aviation
'The flycycles were miracles of compact design.'
FLIR Black Hornet 3 Palm-sized Drone
These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability.
Dockworkers Protest Driverless Trucks
'It resembled conventional human-operated transportation vehicles, but with one exception -- there was no driver's cabin.'
Flying Car Concept By Kash Sirinanda
'Each one consists of a hub with many tiny spokes... On the end is a squat foot, rubber tread on the bottom...'
Unfurl The Future! Huawei Mate X versus Galaxy Fold
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled silently from the top of the unit and immediately grew rigid.'
Amazon Echo And Google Home Should Have Morality Software
'The Dwoskin Morality Rating-Computer could 'spot the slightest tendency to deviation' from the social norm...'
China Building Robot Wives
'Want a life-companion, a pleasant one?'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories