Study suggests serotonin levels are regulated by gut bacteria

I haven’t read the primary literature that describes this observation, but the finding that gut bacteria, through some mode of  chemical signaling can modulate the neurochemistry of the organism has been an increasingly published area of research.

This study and others like it lend support to the idea of a microbiome-gut-brain axis. The hypothesis that a dynamic relationship exists between the microbiotic flora of our guts and the nervous system, mediated through the bundle of nerves that line our gut. But bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut isn’t really that novel of an idea, especially when it’s something we’ve probably all experienced by means of the butterflies in the stomach, or perhaps you’ve experienced the need to…evacuate the bowel when presented with an anxiety producing situation, like mounting a fight or flight response.

This study investigated a nuanced aspect of the relationship between gut flora and the serotonergic system, using mouse as the animal model.

The research is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry “Clarke G, Grenham S, Scully P, Fitzgerald P, Moloney R, Shanahan F, Dinan TG & Cryan JF The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis During Early-Life Regulates the Hippocampal Serotonergic System in a Sex-Dependent Manner”

This research has multiple health implications as it shows that manipulations of the microbiota e.g. by antibiotics, diet, or infection can have profound knock-on effects on brain function. “We’re really excited by these findings” said lead author Dr Gerard Clarke. “Although we always believed that the microbiota was essential for our general health, our results also highlight how important our tiny friends are for our mental wellbeing.”

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