FEB 22, 2020 7:45 AM PST

Does Your Gut Bacteria Influence Your Personality?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A researcher from Oxford University, UK, has found that certain gut bacteria may be able to influence our personality traits via the microbiome-gut-brain axis. 

For the study, Dr. Katerina Johnson, of Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology, collected stool samples from 655 people with an average age of 42, of whom 71% were female and 29% male. To understand the bacterial composition of each stool sample, and thus that of each person’s microbiome, she used 16S rRNA gene sequencing analysis, an accurate and convenient method to classify and identify prokaryotes (organisms without a nucleus). 

Meanwhile, she also gave each participant a questionnaire to fill in to understand aspects of their behavior, health, lifestyle choices and sociodemographic factors. After collecting this data, together with her analysis of each person’s microbiome, Johnson then carried out a series of statistical analyses to determine the relationship between the bacterial composition of each fecal sample, and behavioral traits including sociability and neuroticism. 

In the end, she found adults who were fed formula-milk as infants tended to have less diverse microbes than those fed more diverse diets. She also found that those on dairy-free diets also tended to have lower bacterial diversity in their microbiomes, and that a greater diversity was correlated with diets higher in natural sources of probiotics (such as sauerkraut and fermented cheese). 

Behaviorally speaking however, she found that many kinds of bacteria previously associated with autism were also found in the general population, and that they generally inferred differences in social capabilities. Johnson said, “This suggests that the gut microbiome may contribute not only to the extreme behavioural traits seen in autism but also to variation in social behaviour in the general population. However, since this is a cross-sectional study, future research may benefit from directly investigating the potential effect these bacteria may have on behaviour, which may help inform the development of new therapies for autism and depression.”

More than this, she found that people with larger social circles also tended to have more diverse microbiomes, something commonly linked to better general health. Meanwhile, those who experienced more stress or anxiety tended to have less bacterial diversity in their microbiomes. Johnson continued, “This is the first study to find a link between sociability and microbiome diversity in humans and follows on from similar findings in primates which have shown that social interactions can promote gut microbiome diversity. This result suggests the same may also be true in human populations.”

 

Sources: Oxford University, Science Direct and Medical News Today   

 

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
AUG 03, 2021
Neuroscience
A Tree Falls in the Forest: A Neuroscientist on the World Our Brain Creates
AUG 03, 2021
A Tree Falls in the Forest: A Neuroscientist on the World Our Brain Creates
Neuroscientist, Donald Hoffman, thinks a mathematical model will solve the hard problem of consciousness
AUG 15, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Diabetes Drug May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
AUG 15, 2021
Diabetes Drug May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
People who take a drug used to lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes have less amyloid-beta in their brains, a bio ...
AUG 18, 2021
Neuroscience
Histamine Regulates Serotonin Levels in Depression
AUG 18, 2021
Histamine Regulates Serotonin Levels in Depression
Heightened histamine levels from inflammation inhibit the effects of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin in t ...
AUG 24, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A comparison of drugs for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
AUG 24, 2021
A comparison of drugs for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
     Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a rare and unpredictable autoimmune disease in which the body’s inn ...
AUG 25, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Possible Treatment Strategy for Familial Alzheimer's is ID'ed
AUG 25, 2021
A Possible Treatment Strategy for Familial Alzheimer's is ID'ed
Some cases of Alzheimers disease (AD) are known as Familial AD because they are due to genetic mutations. So far, mutati ...
AUG 30, 2021
Health & Medicine
For the love of java: Researchers find association, not causation, between excessive coffee consumption, brain size, and dementia
AUG 30, 2021
For the love of java: Researchers find association, not causation, between excessive coffee consumption, brain size, and dementia
Researchers find association, not causation, between excessive coffee consumption, brain size, and dementia
Loading Comments...