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 “We have unpublished data showing that probiotics can enhance learning in animal models,” he tells [BBC].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 -
Mind-Altering Drugs Administered Deep Into The Brain
'Happy to serve!'- Greg Bear, 2015.
BRUISE Smart Injury Detection Suit
'... Bee could see that three of them were disabled and two of them damaged.' - Orson Scott Card, 1985.
First US Clinical Trial For Wearable Artificial Kidney
'Wholly mechanical organs...' - Philip K. Dick, 1964.
Open Bionics To Produce Deus Ex Prosthetic Designs
Be a part of a science fictional future.
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.
SuperMeat - Crowdfunding Pohl/Kornbluth's Chicken Little
'Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America.'
Martian-Grown Food Might Be Fine
'I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the best botanist on the planet.'
MARLO Robot Attempts Wave Field
'It is apparent that he will walk before his human brother.'
3RDiTEK Lifeblogging Headband Camera
'It's logging anyway - everything you see on duty goes into the black box.'
3D-Printed Biohybrid Is A Tissue-Engineered Robot
'The directing neurological tissue that forms the basis of the swibble is alive...'
Steerable Locusts Detect Explosives
Science fiction writers again provide a blueprint for the future.
No Human Drivers By 2040 - Israel
'It's been a criminal offense,,, to drive manually on a public highway.'
Graphene Ultracapacitor Airships For Heavy Lifting
'The war-balloons were to be kept for purposes of transportation of heavy articles...'
Uber Hires Robot Security Guard
'The robot studied the identification clip.'
Mind-Altering Drugs Administered Deep Into The Brain
'Happy to serve!'
Are There Diamond Planets?
'I believe the whole central portion of the earth is one great diamond.'
Robot Lawyers And Robot Judges Now Everywhere
'The law clerk arrived, a smallish robot with a battered stainless steel hide and dull coppery features.'
Roam-e Flying Selfie Drone Cam
'Tight mid-shot and pull out on but behind me...'
Chemputer To Grow Bespoke Drones Through Chemistry
'These are your rudimentary seed packages...'
Walmart Shopping Cart Robots Will Follow You
'...the machine would carry his bag in its soft plastic jaws...'
DoNotPay Lawyer Program Contests Parking Tickets
'I want my lawyer program.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories