Gut bacteria regulate happiness

APC scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life. Their research is being published today in the leading international psychiatry journal, Molecular Psychiatry.

This research shows that normal adult brain function depends on the presence of gut microbes during development. Scientists at the APC used a germ-free mouse model to show that the absence of bacteria during early life significantly affected serotonin concentrations in the brain in adulthood. Serotonin, the major chemical involved in the regulation of mood and emotion, is altered in times of stress, anxiety and depression and most clinically effective antidepressant drugs work by targeting this neurochemical.

The research also highlighted that the influence is sex dependent, with more marked effects in male compared with female animals. Finally, when the scientists colonised the animals with bacteria prior to adulthood, they found that many of the central nervous system changes, especially those related to serotonin, could not be reversed indicating a permanent imprinting of the effects of absence of gut flora on brain function.

Some of the general pathways for dopamine and serotonin in the human brain are illustrated.

General pathways for dopamine and serotonin along with a few brain areas are illustrated. VTA in this illustration stands for the ventral tegmental area. Image in the public domain.

This builds on earlier work, from the Cork group and others, showing that a microbiome-gut-brain axis exists that is essential for maintaining normal health which can affect brain and behaviour. The research was carried out by Dr Gerard Clarke, Professor Fergus Shanahan, Professor Ted Dinan and Professor John F Cryan and colleagues at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in UCC.

“As a neuroscientist these findings are fascinating as they highlight the important role that gut bacteria play in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, and opens up the intriguing opportunity of developing unique microbial-based strategies for treatment for brain disorders”, said Professor John F Cryan, senior author on the publication and Head of the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience at UCC.

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.”

Notes about this behavioral neuroscience research and article

Contact: APC of University College Cork
Source: Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at Biosciences Institute in University College Cork news release
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image adapted from public domain image at Wikimedia Commons from DrugAbuse.gov.
Original Research: Abstract for “The microbiome-gut-brain axis during early life regulates the hippocampal serotonergic system in a sex-dependent manner” by G Clarke, S Grenham, P Scully, P Fitzgerald, R D Moloney, F Shanahan, T G Dinan and J F Cryan in Molecular Psychiatry June 12, 2012; doi:10.1038/mp.2012.77

Is there a correlation between social isolation and a weakened immune system?

Yes. In social environment, happiness and contentment can be derived. A happy person has strong immune system. Energy is created that moves immune cells to grow and be energized.

https://clubalthea.com/category/immune-system/

immune-system

Happiness factor, immune system and Brain-related Resource Links

  • Connections between your nervous system and immune system allow for crosstalk between them. The science that studies this is psychoneuroimmunology
  • Pessimism promotes ill health and can shave years off your life; the tendency to always expect the worst has been linked to a 25 percent higher risk of dying before the age of 65
  • Sociable, outgoing people tend to have stronger immune function, and happiness, optimism, life satisfaction, and other positive psychological attributes are associated with a lower risk of heart disease

Stress

“One chemical of note involved in the HPA axis’ work is corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). The hypothalamus releases CRH in response to stress, illness, exercise, cortisol in the blood and sleep/wake cycles. It peaks soon after waking and slowly declines throughout the rest of the day. In a stressed individual, however, cortisol levels are elevated for prolonged periods of time.

During stress, the body believes it is in imminent danger, so cortisol triggers a number of metabolic changes to ensure that enough energy is available in case a fight or flight is necessary. One of these energy-saving tactics is to suppress the metabolically expensive immune system, saving vital glucose for the approaching life-threatening event …

In this way, ongoing stress can reduce the capabilities of the immune system as the body saves its energy for a physical exertion that never comes.”

On the other hand, oxytocin — a hormone that has long been associated with physical and emotional closeness — helps suppress the HPA axis, thereby promoting healthy immune function and improved wound healing.

Normal immune surveillance

The brain was once considered to lack normal immune surveillance. This was assumed to be the case because normal immune responses like swelling do not regularly occur inside the brain. If they did, people would be dying from it on a regular basis. However, considering the brain “immune privileged” turned out to be overly simplistic.

As noted above, research shows that your brain does in fact interact with your peripheral immune system, albeit in unique ways. In 2015, researchers discovered lymphatic vessels in the brain,13 again showing the connection between the brain and the immune system.

Neuropeptides may also be part of the puzzle, as they’ve been implicated in a number of functions involving emotions. For example, they play a role in social-, reproductive-, and reward-seeking behaviors. More than 100 neuropeptides are also used by your central nervous system; they influence both gene expression and the building of new brain synapses.


Psychology and your health

Sudden death Research shows that during the first week after the death of a spouse, mortality skyrockets to double the normal rate
Heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks Letting your anger out explosively may be harmful because it triggers surges in stress hormones and injures blood vessel linings.

One study11 found that people over the age of 50 who express their anger by lashing out are more likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries — an indication that you’re at a high risk for a heart attack — than their mellower peers.

A systematic review12 involving data on 5,000 heart attacks, 800 strokes and 300 cases of arrhythmia also revealed that anger increases your risk of heart attack, arrhythmia and stroke — and the risk increases with frequent anger episodes.

Gastrointestinal (GI) problems Sustained or chronic stress has been linked to a number of GI problems, including inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that your brain, your immune system and your gut microbes are intricately linked.

Autism, for instance, is associated with gastrointestinal problems and potentially an over-reaction in the immune system

Cancer Your outlook has an effect on your ability to recover from cancer. The quality and quantity of psychological support also makes a difference in survival rates
HIV Heightened stress and dwindling support from family and friends has been shown to accelerate the progression of HIV infection
Allergies Skin complaints like psoriasis and eczema have psychological underpinnings. Ditto for asthma. All tend to worsen when stress is elevated
Wound healing The psychological state of the patient has been shown to affect their rate of healing. As noted in the featured article:

For instance, increased levels of fear or distress before surgery have been associated with worse outcomes, including longer stays in the hospital, more postoperative complications and higher rates of re-hospitalization.

In one study on patients with chronic lower leg wounds, those who reported the highest levels of depression and anxiety showed significantly delayed healing.”

Inflammation Stress-relieving strategies such as meditation has been shown to promote antiviral gene activity and reduce inflammatory gene expression

 


Interestingly, while both are positive emotional states associated with happiness, the gene expressions they produced were not identical.

Those whose sense of happiness was rooted in the eudaimonic camp had favorable gene-expression profiles, while hedonic well-being produced gene profiles similar to those seen in people experiencing stress due to adversity.

Professor Cole’s theory8 as to these differences is that when you’re driven by materialistic values, your happiness depends on circumstances that may or may not be within your control. If you run into adversity, it can cause a great deal of stress because it impedes your perceived ability to be happy.

On the other hand, those driven by a sense of “purpose” are largely buffered against the uncertainty that comes with adversity, and their happiness is not dependent on having or experiencing anything in particular that can at any moment be taken away.

  • ———–

Aging and health problems

 

  • Aging is linked to multiple health problems.
  • 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health problem
  • 50% have at least two
  • Health problems may require medicines that interact with each other in harmful ways.
  • Medicines can also interact with food, supplements, natural products, alcohol, or even with another health condition. These interactions can cause problems.
  • Some of these medicines and interactions can affect how your brain functions.

 

Spanish: https://www.nia.nih.gov/espanol/publicaciones/medicamentos

 

Elders with negative attitude about aging may be less resilient to stress

Older adults with a positive attitude about aging may be more resilient to stress, according to a new study.

“Previous research has generally found the same thing, a more positive attitude is beneficial,” said coauthor Jennifer Bellingtier, of North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

“People with positive attitudes are less likely to be hospitalized and tend to live longer,” she told Reuters Health.

The researchers had 43 adults, ages 60 to 96, answer questions about their experience with aging in general, like feeling more or less useful now than when they were younger, or more or less happy.

Then, on a daily basis for eight days, participants completed questionnaires that asked about stressful events and negative emotions like fear, irritability or distress.

As reported in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, people with more positive attitudes about aging generally tended to report consistent emotional states across the eight-day period, regardless of stressors.

But among those with more negative attitudes, emotions fluctuated depending on their stressors.

For older adults, stress often centers on relations with family or friends, while for younger people it may more often be related to work, Bellingtier said.

Almost all cardiovascular functions tend to be worse in people with more negative reactions to stress, she said.

“The media presents a distorted view of aging, making jokes about mental and physical incompetence,” Bellingtier said. “The more you’re exposed to it the more you’re picking up those stereotypes.”

In fact, she said, older adults are often happier with their lives than people in their 20s or 30s, given their real world life experience and time to develop meaningful relationships.

She and her coauthors tried to account for personality in general as well, since people who are generally positive may have more positive attitudes about aging.

Becca Levy of the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, has also studied this question, although she wasn’t part of this new study. She told Reuters Health by email that negative age stereotypes can exacerbate older individuals’ stress experience, while positive age stereotypes can buffer their experience of stress.

“In a recent intervention study with older individuals, we found that it is possible to bolster positive age stereotypes and reduce negative age stereotypes,” Levy said.

Loneliness or social isolation increases risk of stroke/CHD

Nicole K Valtorta, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK; nicole.valtorta@york.ac.uk

Methods Sixteen electronic databases were systematically searched for longitudinal studies set in high-income countries and published up until May 2015. Two independent reviewers screened studies for inclusion and extracted data. We assessed quality using a component approach and pooled data for analysis using random effects models.

Results Of the 35 925 records retrieved, 23 papers met inclusion criteria for the narrative review. They reported data from 16 longitudinal datasets, for a total of 4628 CHD and 3002 stroke events recorded over follow-up periods ranging from 3 to 21 years. Reports of 11 CHD studies and 8 stroke studies provided data suitable for meta-analysis. Poor social relationships were associated with a 29% increase in risk of incident CHD (pooled relative risk: 1.29, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.59) and a 32% increase in risk of stroke (pooled relative risk: 1.32, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.68). Subgroup analyses did not identify any differences by gender.

 

Conclusions Our findings suggest that deficiencies in social relationships are associated with an increased risk of developing CHD and stroke.


Cure for loneliness

  • Volunteer
  • Love
  • Share
  • Forgive
  • Smile and laugh
  • Sincerity
  • Generosity
  • Meet new people each day
  • Listen to comedians/watch funny shows/movies
  • Watch Hamilton in Youtube

 

Mental Health affected by the bacteria in your gut by Peter Smith, Bacteria > Stress > Immune > Disease, Serotonin in the Intestine

gut bacteria

Gut microbes communicate with the nervous system using some of the same neurochemicals that relay messages in the brain.

Eighteen vials were rocking back and forth on a squeaky mechanical device the shape of a butcher scale, and Mark Lyte was beside himself with excitement. ‘‘We actually got some fresh yesterday — freshly frozen,’’ Lyte said to a lab technician. Each vial contained a tiny nugget of monkey feces that were collected at the Harlow primate lab near Madison, Wis., the day before and shipped to Lyte’s lab on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center campus in Abilene, Tex.

Lyte’s interest was not in the feces per se but in the hidden form of life they harbor. The digestive tube of a monkey, like that of all vertebrates, contains vast quantities of what biologists call gut microbiota. The genetic material of these trillions of microbes, as well as others living elsewhere in and on the body, is collectively known as the microbiome. Taken together, these bacteria can weigh as much as six pounds, and they make up a sort of organ whose functions have only begun to reveal themselves to science. Lyte has spent his career trying to prove that gut microbes communicate with the nervous system using some of the same neurochemicals that relay messages in the brain.

Inside a closet-size room at his lab that afternoon, Lyte hunched over to inspect the vials, whose samples had been spun down in a centrifuge to a radiant, golden broth. Lyte, 60, spoke fast and emphatically. ‘‘You wouldn’t believe what we’re extracting out of poop,’’ he told me. ‘‘We found that the guys here in the gut make neurochemicals. We didn’t know that. Now, if they make this stuff here, does it have an influence there? Guess what? We make the same stuff. Maybe all this communication has an influence on our behavior.’’

Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down our food; their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effects of prescription drugs.

Since 2007, when scientists announced plans for a Human Microbiome Project to catalog the micro-organisms living in our body, the profound appreciation for the influence of such organisms has grown rapidly with each passing year. Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down our food; their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effects of prescription drugs. Biologists now believe that much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity. The two million unique bacterial genes found in each human microbiome can make the 23,000 genes in our cells seem paltry, almost negligible, by comparison. ‘‘It has enormous implications for the sense of self,’’ Tom Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told me. ‘‘We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. That’s a phenomenal insight and one that we have to take seriously when we think about human development.’’

Gut secretes Serotonin, Dopamine and GABA (neurochemicals).

Given the extent to which bacteria are now understood to influence human physiology, it is hardly surprising that scientists have turned their attention to how bacteria might affect the brain. Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers like Lyte have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety. Last year, for example, a group in Norway examined feces from 55 people and found certain bacteria were more likely to be associated with depressive patients.

At the time of my visit to Lyte’s lab, he was nearly six months into an experiment that he hoped would better establish how certain gut microbes influenced the brain, functioning, in effect, as psychiatric drugs. He was currently compiling a list of the psychoactive compounds found in the feces of infant monkeys. Once that was established, he planned to transfer the microbes found in one newborn monkey’s feces into another’s intestine, so that the recipient would end up with a completely new set of microbes — and, if all went as predicted, change their neurodevelopment. The experiment reflected an intriguing hypothesis. Anxiety, depression and several pediatric disorders, including autism and hyperactivity, have been linked with gastrointestinal abnormalities. Microbial transplants were not invasive brain surgery, and that was the point: Changing a patient’s bacteria might be difficult but it still seemed more straightforward than altering his genes.

When Lyte began his work on the link between microbes and the brain three decades ago, it was dismissed as a curiosity. By contrast, last September, the National Institute of Mental Health awarded four grants worth up to $1 million each to spur new research on the gut microbiome’s role in mental disorders, affirming the legitimacy of a field that had long struggled to attract serious scientific credibility. Lyte and one of his longtime colleagues, Christopher Coe, at the Harlow primate lab, received one of the four. ‘‘What Mark proposed going back almost 25 years now has come to fruition,’’ Coe told me. ‘‘Now what we’re struggling to do is to figure out the logic of it.’’ It seems plausible, if not yet proved, that we might one day use microbes to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders, treat mental illnesses and perhaps even fix them in the brain.

Mice stressed during pregnancy pass on lowered levels of the bacterium to their pups.

In 2011, a team of researchers at University College Cork, in Ireland, and McMaster University, in Ontario, published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that has become one of the best-known experiments linking bacteria in the gut to the brain. Laboratory mice were dropped into tall, cylindrical columns of water in what is known as a forced-swim test, which measures over six minutes how long the mice swim before they realize that they can neither touch the bottom nor climb out, and instead collapse into a forlorn float. Researchers use the amount of time a mouse floats as a way to measure what they call ‘‘behavioral despair.’’ (Antidepressant drugs, like Zoloft and Prozac, were initially tested using this forced-swim test.)

For several weeks, the team, led by John Cryan, the neuroscientist who designed the study, fed a small group of healthy rodents a broth infused with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a common bacterium that is found in humans and also used to ferment milk into probiotic yogurt. Lactobacilli are one of the dominant organisms babies ingest as they pass through the birth canal. Recent studies have shown that mice stressed during pregnancy pass on lowered levels of the bacterium to their pups. This type of bacteria is known to release immense quantities of GABA; as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA calms nervous activity, which explains why the most common anti-anxiety drugs, like Valium and Xanax, work by targeting GABA receptors.

Cryan found that the mice that had been fed the bacteria-laden broth kept swimming longer and spent less time in a state of immobilized woe. ‘‘They behaved as if they were on Prozac,’’ he said. ‘‘They were more chilled out and more relaxed.’’ The results suggested that the bacteria were somehow altering the neural chemistry of mice.

Beneficial bacteria find a way through the blood-brain barrier.

Until he joined his colleagues at Cork 10 years ago, Cryan thought about microbiology in terms of pathology: the neurological damage created by diseases like syphilis or H.I.V. ‘‘There are certain fields that just don’t seem to interact well,’’ he said. ‘‘Microbiology and neuroscience, as whole disciplines, don’t tend to have had much interaction, largely because the brain is somewhat protected.’’ He was referring to the fact that the brain is anatomically isolated, guarded by a blood-brain barrier that allows nutrients in but keeps out pathogens and inflammation, the immune system’s typical response to germs. Cryan’s study added to the growing evidence that signals from beneficial bacteria nonetheless find a way through the barrier. Somehow — though his 2011 paper could not pinpoint exactly how — micro-organisms in the gut tickle a sensory nerve ending in the fingerlike protrusion lining the intestine and carry that electrical impulse up the vagus nerve and into the deep-brain structures thought to be responsible for elemental emotions like anxiety. Soon after that, Cryan and a co-author, Ted Dinan, published a theory paper in Biological Psychiatry calling these potentially mind-altering microbes ‘‘psychobiotics.’’

It has long been known that much of our supply of neurochemicals — an estimated 50 percent of the dopamine, for example, and a vast majority of the serotonin — originate in the intestine, where these chemical signals regulate appetite, feelings of fullness and digestion. But only in recent years has mainstream psychiatric research given serious consideration to the role microbes might play in creating those chemicals. Lyte’s own interest in the question dates back to his time as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh in 1985, when he found himself immersed in an emerging field with an unwieldy name: psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, for short. The central theory, quite controversial at the time, suggested that stress worsened disease by suppressing our immune system.

By 1990, at a lab in Mankato, Minn., Lyte distilled the theory into three words, which he wrote on a chalkboard in his office: Stress->Immune->Disease. In the course of several experiments, he homed in on a paradox. When he dropped an intruder mouse in the cage of an animal that lived alone, the intruder ramped up its immune system — a boost, he suspected, intended to fight off germ-ridden bites or scratches. Surprisingly, though, this did not stop infections. It instead had the opposite effect: Stressed animals got sick. Lyte walked up to the board and scratched a line through the word ‘‘Immune.’’ Stress, he suspected, directly affected the bacterial bugs that caused infections.

Micro-organisms react to stress.

To test how micro-organisms reacted to stress, he filled petri plates with a bovine-serum-based medium and laced the dishes with a strain of bacterium. In some, he dropped norepinephrine, a neurochemical that mammals produce when stressed. The next day, he snapped a Polaroid. The results were visible and obvious: The control plates were nearly barren, but those with the norepinephrine bloomed with bacteria that filigreed in frostlike patterns. Bacteria clearly responded to stress.

Then, to see if bacteria could induce stress, Lyte fed white mice a liquid solution of Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning in humans but generally doesn’t prompt an immune response in mice. To the trained eye, his treated mice were as healthy as the controls. But when he ran them through a plexiglass maze raised several feet above the lab floor, the bacteria-fed mice were less likely to venture out on the high, unprotected ledges of the maze. In human terms, they seemed anxious. Without the bacteria, they walked the narrow, elevated planks.

Each of these results was fascinating, but Lyte had a difficult time finding microbiology journals that would publish either. ‘‘It was so anathema to them,’’ he told me. When the mouse study finally appeared in the journal Physiology & Behavior in 1998, it garnered little attention. And yet as Stephen Collins, a gastroenterologist at McMaster University, told me, those first papers contained the seeds of an entire new field of research. ‘‘Mark showed, quite clearly, in elegant studies that are not often cited, that introducing a pathological bacterium into the gut will cause a change in behavior.’’

Lyte went on to show how stressful conditions for newborn cattle worsened deadly E. coli infections. In another experiment, he fed mice lean ground hamburger that appeared to improve memory and learning — a conceptual proof that by changing diet, he could change gut microbes and change behavior. After accumulating nearly a decade’s worth of evidence, in July 2008, he flew to Washington to present his research. He was a finalist for the National Institutes of Health’s Pioneer Award, a $2.5 million grant for so-called blue-sky biomedical research. Finally, it seemed, his time had come. When he got up to speak, Lyte described a dialogue between the bacterial organ and our central nervous system. At the two-minute mark, a prominent scientist in the audience did a spit take.

‘‘Dr. Lyte,’’ he later asked at a question-and-answer session, ‘‘if what you’re saying is right, then why is it when we give antibiotics to patients to kill bacteria, they are not running around crazy on the wards?’’

RECENT COMMENTS

birddog June 29, 2015
Interesting. Ancient yoga practices refers to our gut as “Our second mind.” The practioners of Tai Chi have long referred to the ‘tai tien’…
Norton June 29, 2015
If it doesn’t come in a pill, most people will tell you it is simply “voodoo science”. Antibiotics, processed food and food sensitivities…
VTLawyer June 29, 2015
Linus Pauling established a link between nutrition and immuno-opportunistic disease/psychiatric imbalance in the 1960’s

Lyte knew it was a dismissive question. And when he lost out on the grant, it confirmed to him that the scientific community was still unwilling to imagine that any part of our neural circuitry could be influenced by single-celled organisms. Lyte published his theory in Medical Hypotheses, a low-ranking journal that served as a forum for unconventional ideas. The response, predictably, was underwhelming. ‘‘I had people call me crazy,’’ he said.

But by 2011 — when he published a second theory paper in Bioessays, proposing that probiotic bacteria could be tailored to treat specific psychological diseases — the scientific community had become much more receptive to the idea. A Canadian team, led by Stephen Collins, had demonstrated that antibiotics could be linked to less cautious behavior in mice, and only a few months before Lyte, Sven Pettersson, a microbiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, published a landmark paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that showed that mice raised without microbes spent far more time running around outside than healthy mice in a control group; without the microbes, the mice showed less apparent anxiety and were more daring. In Ireland, Cryan published his forced-swim-test study on psychobiotics. There was now a groundswell of new research. In short order, an implausible idea had become a hypothesis in need of serious validation.

Late last year, Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology, gave a presentation at the Society for Neuroscience, ‘‘Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience.’’ Someone had inadvertently dropped a question mark from the end, so the speculation appeared to be a definitive statement of fact. But if anyone has a chance of delivering on that promise, it’s Mazmanian, whose research has moved beyond the basic neurochemicals to focus on a broader class of molecules called metabolites: small, equally druglike chemicals that are produced by micro-organisms. Using high-powered computational tools, he also hopes to move beyond the suggestive correlations that have typified psychobiotic research to date, and instead make decisive discoveries about the mechanisms by which microbes affect brain function.

Two years ago, Mazmanian published a study in the journal Cell with Elaine Hsiao, then a graduate student and now a neuroscientist at Caltech, and others, that made a provocative link between a single molecule and behavior. Their research found that mice exhibiting abnormal communication and repetitive behaviors, like obsessively burying marbles, were mollified when they were given one of two strains of the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis.

The study added to a working hypothesis in the field that microbes don’t just affect the permeability of the barrier around the brain but also influence the intestinal lining, which normally prevents certain bacteria from leaking out and others from getting in. When the intestinal barrier was compromised in his model, normally ‘‘beneficial’’ bacteria and the toxins they produce seeped into the bloodstream and raised the possibility they could slip past the blood-brain barrier. As one of his colleagues, Michael Fischbach, a microbiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said: ‘‘The scientific community has a way of remaining skeptical until every last arrow has been drawn, until the entire picture is colored in. Other scientists drew the pencil outlines, and Sarkis is filling in a lot of the color.’’

Mazmanian knew the results offered only a provisional explanation for why restrictive diets and antibacterial treatments seemed to help some children with autism: Altering the microbial composition might be changing the permeability of the intestine. ‘‘The larger concept is, and this is pure speculation: Is a disease like autism really a disease of the brain or maybe a disease of the gut or some other aspect of physiology?’’ Mazmanian said. For any disease in which such a link could be proved, he saw a future in drugs derived from these small molecules found inside microbes. (A company he co-founded, Symbiotix Biotherapies, is developing a complex sugar called PSA, which is associated with Bacteroides fragilis, into treatments for intestinal disease and multiple sclerosis.) In his view, the prescriptive solutions probably involve more than increasing our exposure to environmental microbes in soil, dogs or even fermented foods; he believed there were wholesale failures in the way we shared our microbes and inoculated children with these bacteria. So far, though, the only conclusion he could draw was that disorders once thought to be conditions of the brain might be symptoms of microbial disruptions, and it was the careful defining of these disruptions that promised to be helpful in the coming decades.

The list of potential treatments incubating in labs around the world is startling. Several international groups have found that psychobiotics had subtle yet perceptible effects in healthy volunteers in a battery of brain-scanning and psychological tests. Another team in Arizona recently finished an open trial on fecal transplants in children with autism. (Simultaneously, at least two offshore clinics, in Australia and England, began offering fecal microbiota treatments to treat neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis.) Mazmanian, however, cautions that this research is still in its infancy. ‘‘We’ve reached the stage where there’s a lot of, you know, ‘The microbiome is the cure for everything,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘I have a vested interest if it does. But I’d be shocked if it did.’’

Lyte issues the same caveat. ‘‘People are obviously desperate for solutions,’’ Lyte said when I visited him in Abilene. (He has since moved to Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.) ‘‘My main fear is the hype is running ahead of the science.’’ He knew that parents emailing him for answers meant they had exhausted every option offered by modern medicine. ‘‘It’s the Wild West out there,’’ he said. ‘‘You can go online and buy any amount of probiotics for any number of conditions now, and my paper is one of those cited. I never said go out and take probiotics.’’ He added, ‘‘We really need a lot more research done before we actually have people trying therapies out.’’

If the idea of psychobiotics had now, in some ways, eclipsed him, it was nevertheless a curious kind of affirmation, even redemption: an old-school microbiologist thrust into the midst of one of the most promising aspects of neuroscience. At the moment, he had a rough map in his head and a freezer full of monkey fecals that might translate, somehow, into telling differences between gregarious or shy monkeys later in life. I asked him if what amounted to a personality transplant still sounded a bit far-fetched. He seemed no closer to unlocking exactly what brain functions could be traced to the same organ that produced feces. ‘‘If you transfer the microbiota from one animal to another, you can transfer the behavior,’’ Lyte said. ‘‘What we’re trying to understand are the mechanisms by which the microbiota can influence the brain and development. If you believe that, are you now out on the precipice? The answer is yes. Do I think it’s the future? I think it’s a long way away.’’

Correction: July 12, 2015
An article on June 28 about microbiota and the brain described incorrectly the affiliation of Elaine Hsiao, an author of a study published in the journal Cell that linked bacteria to behavioral changes. At the time, she was a graduate student in the lab of Paul Patterson, another author of the study, not in the lab of Sarkis Mazmanian.

—————–

Get your probiotics at

http://www.teamasantae.com/clubalthea/

For cell repair at

http://www.gogyv.com/clubalthea/

Contact Connie for holistic caregivers for homebound bayarea seniors, Motherhealth Inc at 408-854-1833 (text) and motherhealth@gmail.com

Your heart is your destiny and when you find love

What to do?

Do not let Love go

For many have to travel mountains to find love

You just found the spiritual relationship that you seek

That you deserve as your heart is your destiny

Listen to your heart as it helps you focus

On the person you can walk with for the rest of your life

No matter what changes in us, we are bound to our

Spiritual relationship, the partner our heart choses

With honesty, truth, humility and love for each other

Nurture Love like a gardener

With daily hugs and kisses and care

For in the end, when all things leave

Our words of comfort is the last to go

The way we communicate to one another

Binds us each day and gives energy to our cells

To minimize aging with caring words

And touch that regenerates cells in other areas of our bodies