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Think With Your Stomach- The Gut Microbiome-Brain Axis

Sofia Cruz Tetlalmatzi

posted:March 5th, 2019

When you think of yourself, do you also think of ecosystem that lives inside of you? Well, maybe you should. Not only does your gastrointestinal community of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms outnumber the cells in your body, but they have the ability to communicate with your central nervous system.  It’s almost as if the gut microbiome were another organ, which is why there is a strong correlation between gastrointestinal issues and central nervous system diseases.[1]

Gut bacteria can produce a wide variety of biochemical signals targeting the endocrine, immune and neuronal systems. Some bacteria can even synthetize serotonin [1], others produce chemicals that influence the oxytocinergic system [2].  These signals may act locally but can also reach the periphery and central nervous systems by either permeating the gut mucosa and entering the circulatory system or via the vagus nerve [2], the cranial nerve that connects gut and brain. However, the exact mechanism of how changes in gut microbiome change the host’s behavior are currently being researched.

Nonetheless, there is evidence of the great impact that bacteria can have on the host. For example, transplantation of the gut microbiome of patients with depression into germ-free animals caused the animals to exhibit depressive-like symptoms [1]. Other studies have shown that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are 3.5 times more likely to have gastrointestinal issues [2]. Furthermore, there is evidence of possible treatments using the gut microbiome. For both cases there has been research showing that animals with either of these disorders can be treated with some specific bacteria to rescue their social behaviors [1][2].

These studies have brought together neurological sciences and microbiology. In the light of the potential to develop microbiome treatments for neurological diseases, in the future it is possible that the gut-brain axis will connect psychology and nutritional sciences. For the time being, next time you’re hungry remember to eat something that’ll make you, your brain and your gut happy.



1.-Tetel, M. J., de Vries, G. J., Melcangi, R. C., Panzica, G., & O’Mahony, S. M. (2018). Steroids, stress and the gut microbiome-brain axis. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 30(2), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1111/jne.12548

2.-Dooling, S. W., Buffington, S. A., Britton, R. A., Sgritta, M., Francis, M. B., Momin, E. N., & Costa-Mattioli, M. (2018). Mechanisms Underlying Microbial-Mediated Changes in Social Behavior in Mouse Models of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neuron, 101(2), 246–259.e6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.11.018