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 “We have unpublished data showing that probiotics can enhance learning in animal models,” he tells [BBC].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 -
AliveCor App Detects Heart Arrhythmias, Has FDA Approval
Works on humans and puppeteers.
Artificial Wombs - Ectogenesis Technology - Is On The Way
'Magnificent, aren't they? (Lama Su, in Star Wars II)
Bionic Hand Provides 'Lifelike' Sensations, Like Luke Skywalker's
A fictional scene becomes reality in just thirty-five years.
Neural Implant To Treat Memory Loss
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'- Richard Morgan, 2003.
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.
'Hello, Computer!' Intel's Core M Catches Up To Scotty
'Well, isn't that quaint!'
Visual Speech Recognition - When Will HAL Read Lips For Real?
Automating lip reading.
MIT's Robotic Cheetah Runs Free - And Frolics In The Grass
'THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner's trail...'
Flying Robot Has An Arm
Drones with arms.
Strati 3D Printed Car
'You rode in it - you know how good it is.'
Tracking Spinning Space Junk
'Loose nuts and bolts... had been accumulating in Earth orbit'
Baidu Kuaisou Dune Poison Snooper Chopsticks
'Unobtrusive inspections with... snoopers... Will it be chaumas - poison in the food?'
Crystalized Light Created At Princeton
'It will be matter, matter made of light...'
The Amazing Gravity-Assisted Journey Of Rosetta
'...We used the [moon's] attraction to give us additional starting speed'
AirDog Auto-Follow Drone Captures Your Awesomeness
'Tight mid-shot and pull out on but behind me...'
Dell's Venue 8 7000 Tablet With RealSense Depth-Mapping
Focus on any part of a picture later.
Google's Cartographer Backpack For Indoor Mapping
'He reached to unsnap the cartograph from his belt.'
T-Mobile Sues Huawei Over Button Pushing Robot Idea From The 1930's
'Not the slightest change in their working betrayed the fact that they were now being directed by a machine instead of human beings.'
Hayabusa-2 Asteroid Cannon Strategy From 1950's SF Novel
'Fire streaked in a thin line from the muzzle of a cannon-like tube...'
Dyson 360 Eye Robot Vacuum Cleaner
'It vacuum-cleaned... or polished, consulting tapes in its idiot memory to decide which.'
First 3D Printer In Space?
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories