MAR 05, 2015 09:00 AM PST

Mental Problems? Blame Your Microbiome

The microbiome and its role in our heath and well-being has been receiving a lot of publicity recently. According to an article titled Mental Health May Depend on Creatures in the Gut by Charles Schmidt in the February 17 issue of Mind & Brain, mental health may also depend on the microbiome. And if that's the case, the microbiome may yield a new class of psychobiotics for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

It turns out that this will come as no surprise to many people. As the article points out, the idea that our gut governs our mental state has been around for over a century. As far back as the 19th-century, some scientists believed that accumulating wastes in the colon triggered a state of "auto-intoxication," which was linked to depression, anxiety, and psychosis. The cause of this was infections caused by poisons emanating in the gut, and patients were treated with colonic purges and even bowel surgeries.

Research on the human microbiome today promises to bring the gut-brain connection into clearer focus. This connection appears to be bidirectional, with the brain acting on the gastrointestinal and immune functions that help shape the gut's microbes, some of which make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that act on the brain.

The article gives a number of examples of scientists who are looking into the gut-brain connection. One of them is Sven Pettersson, a microbiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who has shown that gut microbes help to control leakage through both the intestinal lining and the blood-brain barrier, which ordinarily protects the brain from potentially harmful agents.

Another researcher, John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland, maintains that microbes may have their own reasons for communicating with the brain. They need us to be social, so that they can spread between us and survive. Cryan's research shows that when bred in sterile conditions, germ-free mice lacking in intestinal microbes have difficulty recognizing other mice. Other studies have shown that disruptions of the microbiome induced mice behavior that mimics human anxiety, depression and even autism.

The article, Metal Health May Depend on Creatures in the Gut, is part of the depth report: Innovations in the Microbiome (Scientific American. Volume 312, Issue 3)
About the Author
You May Also Like
SEP 30, 2018
Drug Discovery
SEP 30, 2018
Researchers Re-classify the 'Magic Mushroom' Drug
Researchers at John Hopkins have evaluated the safety and efficacy of compound, psilocybin, found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. They suggested that if evalu...
OCT 11, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 11, 2018
New Vaccine Protects Against Lassa Fever and Rabies
In Africa, Lassa fever is a significant threat to public health. It is a member of the same family of viruses as Ebola....
OCT 15, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 15, 2018
Surprising Source of Hospital-acquired Infections is Found
Is it a sick visitor, a dirty hospital gown, or the unwashed hands of a clinician? No, the infection is coming from inside the patient!...
OCT 16, 2018
Videos
OCT 16, 2018
Can the Bacteria That we Carry Give us Special Powers?
The bacteria that we carry in and on our bodies can affect our health and well-being in many ways....
OCT 19, 2018
Videos
OCT 19, 2018
Latin American Coffee Harvests Threatened by Fungus
A fungus called hemileia vastatrix causes a serious plant disease called coffee leaf rust....
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Infections in Tattoos
Contracting an infection when getting a tattoo is always a major concern. Consumers should be aware of the risk of developing infections with bloodborne pa...
Loading Comments...