We have known for a long time that there is a strong connection between the intestine and the brain. In the last twenty years several researchers have discovered connections between autoimmune diseases and various psychiatric diseases, for example. The strong suspicion is that the intestinal microbiome, i.e. the totality of all bacteria living in the different areas of our intestines, has a strong influence on the health of the brain, but this relationship is still basically unknown.
A new study conducted by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College provides new insights into the molecular cellular processes underlying the communication between the same microbes in the intestine and brain cells. As David Artis, Director of the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Professor of Immunology, explains, this research is a kind of entry into the “big picture” of chronic gastrointestinal diseases that affect mental health and uniform behavior.
Using mouse experiments, the researchers have understood the changes in brain cells that occur when the intestinal microbiome is completed. In fact, researchers have used antibiotics to reduce microbial populations in the intestines of mice. These mice showed very little ability to learn, for example, that a danger or threat was no longer present.
By analyzing the microglia in the brain of mice, the researchers discovered a modified gene expression in these cells that affects the connection between brain cells during the learning process.
In addition, in mice with a lower number of bacteria in the intestine, changes in the concentrations of various metabolites associated with various neuropsychiatric disorders that also occur in humans, such as schizophrenia or autism, were observed. “Brain chemistry essentially determines how we feel and react to our environment, and there is evidence that chemicals derived from intestinal microbes play an important role,” said Frank Schroeder, professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute and one of the authors of the study.
This study corresponds to the existence of a strong connection between the gut and the brain and how this connection affects our lives day by day, and only now is it beginning to understand how the gut itself, or the bacteria it contains, can affect even diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s disease and depression.
Perhaps in the future, we can identify new targets for the treatment of these diseases, as Conor Liston, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the Feil Family Brain & Mind Research Institute and another author of the study, suggests.
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