Gut Instinct: Brains on Bacteria

Man meditating holding phone with digestive system and brain shown as connected.
(Image:  https://atlasbiomed.com)

Background

You are what you eat, or so many people have been told. Researchers today are discovering that this age-old saying may be even more true that previously thought. “The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) research initiative to improve understanding of the microbial flora involved in human health and disease”(7). Actually, the human microbiome project is a continuing effort of scientists from across the globe working together to better understand how all of the microbiological members of the immediate human environment (the microbiome) interact with our daily lives. The human microbiome is vast network of trillions of microorganisms that live in and on the human body including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses(9). According to the National Institute of Health’s website, the human body is made up of 1-3% of microorganisms by mass(1).    Continue reading “Gut Instinct: Brains on Bacteria”

For the microbiomes of our future

Picture of a baby with bacteria visualized on it.
University of Utah (Learn Genetics)

The vaginal microbiome: We live in a world of microbes, and yet we are still learning new things about these millions of ‘germs’ every day and how they influence us, but what about our children? New research suggests a mother’s stress during pregnancy could be another puzzle piece in the development of baby’s microbiome and brain. According to the CDC nearly 4 million children were born in the United States in 2016, which resulted in mothers giving their offspring microbes, whether the baby was born through c-section or vaginally. Recent research (Rutayisire et al., 2016) is starting to show that there may be an advantage to birthing vaginally, as young are exposed to their mother’s microbiome. Continue reading “For the microbiomes of our future”

Mothers with Viral Infection Coupled With Wrong Gut Microbiome Could Lead to Autism in Offspring

Background

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), between the years 2000 and 2012, autism rates have risen from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 68 children diagnosed with this disorder. This disorder is most often associated with repetitive behaviors and social deficiencies and can be physically characterized by abnormal patches in the brain’s cell arrangements (Kim et al. 2017). Since autism is an increasing problem, researchers are trying to find a cause and solution to control the disorder. Continue reading “Mothers with Viral Infection Coupled With Wrong Gut Microbiome Could Lead to Autism in Offspring”

Do the microbes in your gut affect cognitive and behavioral development?

Blue puzzel pieces with a brain, the gut, neurons, and bacteria on separate pieces. Almost interlocking.
Figure 1. Puzzle pieces connecting gut and microbes and the brain (Image courtesy of Jennifer Franklin).

 Background

Neuronal development is especially critical in adolescent years (Paus, 2005; O’Connor & Cryan, 2014). Consequentially, this time is also when doctors see the onset of mental illness and behavioral abnormalities that include, but are not limited to, anxiety and mood disorders (O’Connor & Cryan, 2014; Paus, Keshavan & Giedd, 2008). The causal relationships of these atypical behaviors that are seen in mental illness have long been debated. Some scholars believe deficient diets lead to cognitive and short-term memory disabilities (Bondi et al, 2014), whereas others suggest that errors in the human genome could affect brain development and induce mental illness (Guo et al, 2009). In recent years, researchers have brought forward the idea that the microbes in our gut could influence the development of our brain. Continue reading “Do the microbes in your gut affect cognitive and behavioral development?”

Depression and Microbial Dysfunction: A Link Between Gut Microbiota and the Brain.

Background

Depression is a mood disorder that is heterogeneous in nature.  Depression  causes severe symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities (NIMH, 2017).  According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 300 million people and is a major worldwide contributor to the burden of diseases. This is especially pertinent considering that depression is one of the mood disorders associated with suicide, some others being anxiety, schizophrenia and PTSD.  On an annual basis suicide leads to the death of nearly 800,000 people and is the second leading cause of death within the age group of 15 to 29 year olds (WHO, 2017). The underlying causes of depression are a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. It is essential to analyze these factors to understand the contribution of each in the development and maintenance of major depressive disorders.   Continue reading “Depression and Microbial Dysfunction: A Link Between Gut Microbiota and the Brain.”

Does your gut control your brain?

When studying mental illness, the brain has long been the focal organ of interest. Psychiatry and neurobiology examine communication from the brain and how its chemical imbalance produces central nervous system (CNS) disorders such as depression and anxiety. However, microbiology presents a new avenue of inquiry that is looking from the opposite direction: how is communication to the brain affecting mental health? This is a provocative question under investigation through recent studies of the microbiota of our gut. Continue reading “Does your gut control your brain?”