A new study provides further evidence that a person’s microbiome
(the microorganisms found within a particular niche and which interact with the body) plays an important role in health and disease. This time the evidence points towards the psychological, specifically mood and mental wellbeing.
The evidence comes from the laboratory of Dr. Vicki Ellingrod. The academic has undertaken studies on the connection between the gut microbiota and mood and anxiety models. Specifically this connection has been demonstrated using rats.
For the research
, laboratory rats were subjected to chronic stress over a seven week period. During this time the diversity of the gut microorganisms was assessed using genetic test methods. It was found that during stress the population of microorganisms decreased (at a rate proportional to the stress increasing). Moreover, as the microbial populations fell the behavior of the rats altered and they began to show what the researchers have described as "despair-like" behavior.
For a second round of research, the particular microorganisms associated with the stressed rats were transferred into a new group of rodents that had not been subjected to the stress factors. Interestingly, these rats began to demonstrate similar behavioral changes after just five days. The alternation suggests that the composition of the microorganisms residing in the gut are connected to stress-like responses.
Tests on humans with mental health issues, such as depression and bipolar disorder, also suggest a reduced diversity and population of microorganisms in people with such conditions when compared with the general populace. Given that some people with depression, and who take anti-depressant medication, experience weight-gain then this shift in body mass might be attributable to changes in the microbial profile.
The implication from the research points towards a microbial cure for stress involving the use of an appropriate cocktail of live microbes (a probiotic).
The research has been published in
the journal Neuropsychopharmacology
. The research study is called “Gut Microbial Community and Behavioral Changes in a Chronic Mild Stress Model of Depression in Rats.”