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 “We have unpublished data showing that probiotics can enhance learning in animal models,” he tells [BBC].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..."

Via BBC.

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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Medical ")

Neural Implant To Treat Memory Loss
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'- Richard Morgan, 2003.

The Claustrum - The Brain's On Off Switch?
'All I have to do is move this switch and he'll recover consciousness...'- John Brunner, 1976.

Beating Mini-Heart Grown In Lab
'Runciter's body contained a dozen artiforgs...'- Philip K. Dick, 1969.

An 'OFF' Switch For The Brain
'Yes, sir, he's status go.'- John Brunner, 1975.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Japan Invites Robot Athletes To Gather For 2020 Olympics
It's time we started to get rid of that distinction between metal and flesh, and IC and neuron, don't you think?

CV Dazzle Anti-Surveillance Make-Up
Let's hear it for the vague blur!

LG Display's 18 Inch Flexible OLED Panel Is Awesomely Cool
'...a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling color.'

Tiniest Microphone Inspired By Fly
'Transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones...'

NASA's Highway In The Sky For Drones
Traffic is everywhere.

Palcohol Powdered Alcohol - Try Or Ban?
'I had a small can of powdered alcohol disguised as tooth powder...'

pd.id Personal Drink ID Device Like Dune 'Poison Snooper'
'The jeweled hands clutching drinks (and the unobtrusive inspections with tiny remote-cast snoopers)...'

Monsieur Bartending Robot
'He poured the liquids into his maw...'

Cities Detect Gunfire Acoustics With ShotSpotter
'Sound trackers on the roof...'

Cruise Automation's 'Highway Autopilot' For $10K
'It cut her out of the stream of vehicles and reduced the speed of her car...'

Pengheng Space Capsule Hotel Staffed Entirely By Robots
'A planet-wide chain of hotels that specialized in non-human service.'

Electric Bacteria That Live On Pure Energy
'April 5, 1977; that was the night the waveries came.'

EXACTO Smart Bullet From DARPA
Nicely visualized in what 1984 movie?

Neural Implant To Treat Memory Loss
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'

MIT's Shape-Shifting Robot Materials
The T-100, an advanced prototype, is made of liquid metal. Not quite ready.

LS3 AlphaDog Robot Marine Corps Video
'He admired the fast-plodding, articulated legs, so necessary since roads had degenerated...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.