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Science

Gut Bacteria Exert Mind Control 221

Posted by Soulskill
from the lactobacillus-colbertsus dept.
sciencehabit writes "Hundreds of species of bacteria call the human gut their home. This gut 'microbiome' influences our physiology and health in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand. Now, a new study suggests that gut bacteria can even mess with the mind, altering brain chemistry and changing mood and behavior (abstract)."
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Gut Bacteria Exert Mind Control

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  • I, for one, welcome our microscopic overlords.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hrvatska (790627) on Monday August 29, 2011 @03:57PM (#37246392)
      I think these are more like innerlords.
    • There are more bacteria in our intestines than cells in the body, by some estimates. I was disappointed by this comment:

      The findings "open up very exciting speculation" about using probiotics to treat mood disorders in people, says Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

      The types of bacteria in one's intestines are highly dependent on the substrates available. A person who eats a vegetable-rich diet every day - especially grated carrots with salt and vinegar or jerusalem artichokes (rich source of the prebiotic carbohydrate inulin) - will have a totally different types of bacteria in their intestines than those who survive on Big Macs, Fries and carbonate

      • I've always thought of Big Macs as being quite similar to fertilizer. Do you think they have some benefit?

        • by nido (102070)

          depends on what kind of bacteria you want to feed. If you want to cultivate bacteria that produce "signs of stress and anxiety", big macs are exactly what you're looking for. :)

        • More like a super preservative [yahoo.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by thunderclap (972782)

        So you are saying that Vegans are crazy because they don't eat meat and those microbes exert a greater influence because of it?

        • by WillKemp (1338605)

          So you are saying that Vegans are crazy because they don't eat meat and those microbes exert a greater influence because of it?

          Which microbes?

          All the vegans i've ever known (and i've know a lot of them and i was one myself for 14 years) showed much less sign of food-related craziness than habitual junk food eaters do.

          • What's a "food-related craziness" and how does one define the difference between other types of crazy?

            And it's odd you say that, many of the vegans I've known have been quite odd people. I always attributed the vegan choice to the oddities, rather than the other way around...

            I do know that vegans have to be insanely careful about what they eat to be healthy and I've known a few athletes who tried to go vegan and their body just couldn't handle it, responding like they were short on important nutrients, thei

            • by WillKemp (1338605)

              What's a "food-related craziness" and how does one define the difference between other types of crazy?

              Dunno really, maybe you should ask the gp what they meant by "crazy". I was using "food-related" to exclude other more obvious sources of craziness.

              And it's odd you say that, many of the vegans I've known have been quite odd people. I always attributed the vegan choice to the oddities, rather than the other way around...

              Everyone's odd to somebody - even you!

              I do know that vegans have to be insanely careful about what they eat to be healthy [......]

              You don't have to be insanely careful at all, you just have to know what you're doing and have your shit together. People who don't understand nutrition and can't keep it together don't last very long as vegans.

              [......] and I've known a few athletes who tried to go vegan and their body just couldn't handle it, responding like they were short on important nutrients, their energy, stamina and recovery speed were notably diminished.

              I'm going to say what I always say. Doing something "hardcore" is probably bad for you. Why not have a balanced diet? We are evolved as omnivores and it's challenging to try to hotwire that.

              Athletes have very different nutritional requirements from normal people. It may be possible to be a vegan athlete

              • by smelch (1988698)

                litre of soya milk

                Wow, I don't think there is a more offensive phrase to republicans than that.

      • by WillKemp (1338605)

        Yep, as the old saying goes, you are what you eat.

        But something else that has a major influence on your gut flora is antibiotics - which quacks hand out like lollies ("sweets"/"candies", for the linguistically challenged). So just changing your diet may not be enough, because the necessary bacteria may simply not be there any more.

        There have been reports (in New Scientist among other sources) of the success of what are euphemistically called "fecal transplants". Getting the right microbes into your gut - an

        • by gfxguy (98788)

          I had a really difficult root canal after which the dentist prescribed really strong antibiotics because the roots were so curvy and deep he wasn't sure he could get it all. At the same time, he prescribed acidophilus... but it didn't help, and my digestive system got completely out of whack. I had to eventually take massive doses of all different kinds of probiotics to get "normal" again. Years later I started taking probiotics as part of my routine (yes, I'm old), and it's worked really well for me.

          As

      • "I was disappointed by this comment:

        The findings "open up very exciting speculation" about using probiotics to treat mood disorders in people, says Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, Los Angeles."

        Me too. I'm surprised this is news to a gastroenterologist. I though it was well known that other, non-biotic, inhabitants [wikipedia.org] influence the mind too. Very nasty if you have candadiasis, which is an out of control growth of this critter.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In this case, the side effects appeared to be beneficial. Mice whose diets were supplemented with L. rhamnosus for 6 weeks exhibited fewer signs of stress and anxiety in standard lab tests, Cryan and colleagues report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    ...

    "This was really exciting because it tells us the animals are more chilled out and don't mount the same stress response," Cryan says.

    Or maybe the mice just felt good after having taken a really satisfying dump.

    Brain:

  • Unnerving (Score:4, Funny)

    by Verdatum (1257828) on Monday August 29, 2011 @03:45PM (#37246256)
    I liked the bit where they cut the vagus nerve. Before I got to that point in TFA, I was thinking "Well sure, rats fed lactobacillus will have lower stress levels! Life isn't as stressful when you poop good!"
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      I think you were right in you initial assessment. If the vagus nerve is intact signals of well being could be transmitted to the brain and reduce stress. There is a difference between no signal and good signals.

      • by Verdatum (1257828)
        Yeah, I considered that bit too. But I still say it's a decent start at trying to sort out causality.
        • by causality (777677)

          Yeah, I considered that bit too. But I still say it's a decent start at trying to sort out causality.

          Says you.

          • Causality is a useless attempt at simplification in any reasonably healthy ecosystem. Including the internal ecosystem of any mammal that is not actually in the last stages of dying.

            This stuff is better handled by thinking of it as Skinner type black boxes. Give the gut a stimulus, look for a consistent response. You can do lot of good science at that level. But try to get any more mechanistic than that and there are too many possible alternative pathways and, at this point, by far too little established

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        If the vagus nerve is intact signals of well being could be transmitted to the brain and reduce stress.

        I don't know. I think cutting the vagus nerve could be kind of cool.

        I'm going to try it as soon as I'm done trepanning myself. Problem is, I keep breaking drill bits and then running out of coconut-flavored rum. So then I gotta wrap my head up and drive down to the hardware store and then the liquor store. Last time I went the guy who owns Crater Liquors on Milwaukee Avenue was pissed that I bled on hi

  • ..you know someone was gonna say it
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 29, 2011 @03:46PM (#37246270) Journal
    The assumption that I posses a mysterious "free will" that is somehow divorced from cause and effect(except in that it causes me to act) is simply too convenient to abandon!
    • Laws of physics not withstanding, I think it's a bit presumptuous to conclude our universe can be predicted with the right computing hardware in calculating every sub-atomic particle in motion down to the quantum level. We have no proof one way or another that the universe has a predictable non-random outcome. And even if it it did, how do "you" know what multi-verse you exist in should there be divergence at every universal fork (permutation)? Of course, that's another big assumption in of itself.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Free will is just as incompatible with a random universe as it is with a deterministic universe. Random events are statistically deterministic. We know that quantum events are truly random, and not affected by hidden variables (such as "will"), due to Bell's theorem. Free will is simply incompatible with what we know about physics.

        • by hawkfish (8978)

          Free will is just as incompatible with a random universe as it is with a deterministic universe. Random events are statistically deterministic. We know that quantum events are truly random, and not affected by hidden variables (such as "will"), due to Bell's theorem. Free will is simply incompatible with what we know about physics.

          That's not what Bell's theorem says. It say that quantum physics must necessarily violate either the principle of locality or counterfactual definiteness. Free will could violate locality if it was the result of agents external to the universe. Conversely, free will could violate counterfactual definiteness if the universe was being made up as we go along. The latter seems not only compatible with free will, but a necessary consequence of it.

        • Except that the Copenhagen interpretation dismisses the principle of locality as an inescapable observer bias that is not binding on the Universe (it is instead a limit to our capacity to perceive or understand the Universe). Without the principle of locality, Bell's theorem pretty much falls apart.

          The Sugar Beats summed up the whole quandary quite well, I think: "I can't believe I used to think that what I thought was happening was really going on." If you can get your head around that, then you are one

    • by williamhb (758070)

      The assumption that I posses a mysterious "free will" that is somehow divorced from cause and effect(except in that it causes me to act) is simply too convenient to abandon!

      It's not an assumption. It is a continuous first-hand subjective observation. I was going to post a sarcastic reply, but then I decided I really shouldn't be so mean -- after all, by your argument it wasn't your decision to post that.

  • chemicals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Haven (34895) on Monday August 29, 2011 @03:47PM (#37246286) Homepage Journal

    There is far more serotonin present in your gut than in your skull.

  • by SmurfButcher Bob (313810) on Monday August 29, 2011 @03:47PM (#37246288) Journal

    but I just had this gut feeling that something bad would happen if I didn't.

  • So the spleen is the seat of emotions after all?

    http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/anxietydepression/a/EmotionsTCM.htm [about.com]

    Then forget the Zoloft, gimme my strawberry-banana yogursicle.

  • ...I feel like an American!

    No wait...

    • by lakeland (218447)

      If it makes you feel better, you can call them frenched fries.

  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday August 29, 2011 @04:02PM (#37246442)
    This was unexpected?

    There are millions of people every day dependent upon manufactured medications to maintain mental function, and millions more who are taking medication because someone else thinks they need mental function adjustement. Those medications are, for the most part, administered orally.

    What, does it surprise anyone that a bacterium producing a mind altering compound in the gut would have that compound absorbed and transported via the bloodstream, when we depend on exactly that transport method for manufactured drugs?

    • by Muros (1167213)
      I don't think it's particularly surprising either. However, I would be interested in seeing research into what common gut flora & fauna produce what effects, and how particular dietary elements influence population sizes of those specific organisms.
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      This was unexpected?

      What, does it surprise anyone that a bacterium producing a mind altering compound in the gut would have that compound absorbed and transported via the bloodstream, when we depend on exactly that transport method for manufactured drugs?

      I think you may have missed the part about cutting the vagus nerve. With the nerve cut there was no mood enhancing effect. Therefore it is not a compound produced by the organism being transported to the brain.

  • For years we've been taking the blame for our farting. Now, with this research, we can blame mind control!

    And I'm not even kidding. These critters are indeed controlling our minds in flatulence. What more - or less - subtle means do they exercise?

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Monday August 29, 2011 @04:15PM (#37246532)

    When did /. become a tabloid? This has nothing to do with "mind control". Control implies intent and I am pretty sure that a bacteria in the digestive tract have no intent to "explore narrow walkways".

    The bacteria makes the stomach feel better and the vagus nerve transmits this feeling to the brain thereby reducing stress. There is a funny thing about stress. The response to stress is not linear it is exponential. If someone under no stress has a little stress added they can deal with it. A person under a lot of stress has the same amount add it can push them over the edge. A good example of this is losing keys. If you are about to leave the house to go for a walk and cant find you keys it is not a problem; most people just delay the walk until they find their keys. Now lose your keys when you are trying to get to the airport with 4 excited children. That small stressor can drive you insane. Same stressor, different initial stress level, different response. So the stomach feeling good lowers stress levels and allows the rodent to handle added stress better. Animals under stress avoid stress.

    Do bacteria in the digestive tract affect animals? Yes, by making them feel better and having less stress. Do bacteria in the digestive tract control the mind? No, that do not make animals do things they do not want to do.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      You have a very strange definition of "same".

      Not being able to find the keys isn't the stress inducer, they're just reasonably cheap replaceable objects. The stress in the first case is "damn it where are those keys". The stress in the second case is "damn it where are those keys", and "shit, we are going to miss the plane", and "I can't leave the house unlocked for the entire trip". Completely different things.

      Doesn't refute your exponential idea, but that example doesn't provide any evidence for it either

    • by Livius (318358)

      It's an issue of adaptation, not intent. Lots of parasites alter their hosts' behaviour, which is mind control by definition. The control may be crude but that's not the point.

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Parasites alter mood which allows people to do things that want to do. That is not control. Are you saying that antidepressants are mind control drugs? Re you saying a pulled muscle exerts mind control? It defiantly alters behaviour in that one is less active. Look up Mind control and you will see that it is synonymous with brainwashing. The term "mind control" has a specific definition and the only reason it was used in the headline was to sensationalize the article.

    • Or to go a little further "I get grumpy at work if I miss lunch"

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      A couple digits before you got here, Sonny.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      When did /. become a tabloid? This has nothing to do with "mind control". Control implies intent and I am pretty sure that a bacteria in the digestive tract have no intent to "explore narrow walkways".

      The bacteria makes the stomach feel better and the vagus nerve transmits this feeling to the brain thereby reducing stress. There is a funny thing about stress. The response to stress is not linear it is exponential. If someone under no stress has a little stress added they can deal with it. A person under a lot of stress has the same amount add it can push them over the edge. A good example of this is losing keys. If you are about to leave the house to go for a walk and cant find you keys it is not a problem; most people just delay the walk until they find their keys. Now lose your keys when you are trying to get to the airport with 4 excited children. That small stressor can drive you insane. Same stressor, different initial stress level, different response. So the stomach feeling good lowers stress levels and allows the rodent to handle added stress better. Animals under stress avoid stress.

      Do bacteria in the digestive tract affect animals? Yes, by making them feel better and having less stress. Do bacteria in the digestive tract control the mind? No, that do not make animals do things they do not want to do.

      Really? Your positive about this, huh?

      Let me tell you a little bit about stress and me. Stress doesn't start in my stomach. Stress starts in my brain. Ya, I know that is that is probably the weirdest thing you've ever heard, but, at least with me, it's true. And that stress, goes from my head, to my stomach. I know your thinking, what? that's bullshit, stress starts in your stomach because I said so. Well, sorry, but stress starts in the brain. Ya, i know, that really fucks up the post you w

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Are you saying that when your stomach is upset due to hunger, illness, etc that it does not cause stress? How about when you stub your toe? Does that not increase stress? How about when you get a massage? Does that not decrease stress? What I am trying to say is that positive and negative sensations from the rest of the body induce or relieve stress. There are nerve pathways in both direction between the brain and the digestive tract. Yes, stress causes stomach issue but stomach issues also cause stress. I

    • by quax (19371)

      When did /. become a tabloid?

      Let me take a stab at this: About maybe 8 years ago?

    • Darn right! We're^H^H^H^H^HThe bacteria are not controlling anyone or acting with intent.

  • by JonySuede (1908576) on Monday August 29, 2011 @04:16PM (#37246546) Journal

    This bacteria must interfere with possibly a combination of the Neuropeptides Y, S and CCK pathways. The CCK-4 neuropeptide is pretty nasty, it cause instant panic attack reliably at 75ug.

  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Monday August 29, 2011 @04:24PM (#37246612)

    "You don't believe in me," observed the Ghost.

    "I don't." said Scrooge.

    "What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your senses?"

    "I don't know," said Scrooge.

    "Why do you doubt your senses?"

    "Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

  • I don't know what it is--but I get this gut feeling that I should eat one of those Elvis favorites: Deep-Fat-Fried Peanut Butter & Bannana sandwiches. I know it's horrible for me but... I can't explain it... it's just a gut feeling I get.
  • by ichthus (72442) on Monday August 29, 2011 @04:28PM (#37246660) Homepage
    My gut tells me this story is complete nonsense. Yep, nothing to see here. Move along.
  • Try reading Vitals by Greg Bear.

  • ... and it's a bunch of gut bacteria. Well, somehow it figures with all the shit that's been happening lately.
  • This was very much my experience with Crohn's disease.
    Well actually, it turned out not to be Crohn's, but a rare type of cancer called an gastronoma, but that's kind of an aside.

    What I found is that the mind-gut connection is a two way street.
    You know how your gut gets all twisted and you get the shits, nausea, etc when you are *really* stressed out?
    Well if that shit happens (no pun intended) on the regular ... your mind starts to react as if stress were the cause.

    I had almost no stress (other than the heal

    • by syousef (465911)

      Of course your gut and mind are connected.

      If your gut isn't working right all the time, you're feeling unwell and in pain all the time.

      If you're constantly gassy, uncomfortable and looking for somewhere socially acceptable to fart, it's not going to put you in a good mood.

      If you're always hungry even soon after a large meal, you're going to be irritable because you're hungry.

      If you have a disease that requires you to plan and monitor everything you eat, that causes stress. Especially if you're told that dis

  • "Great, Chewie, always thinking with your stomach!"

  • Did anyone see the latest Doctor Who? I mean, how timely is this?

  • Someone mentioned it already, but that old saying "you are what you eat" might have some really deep truth in it. It also reminds of those Asian "body & mind are one" teachings many practitioners of modern scientific medicine like to laugh about.
    Anecdotal evidence as observed in people around me: lots of sweets > whiny, anxious; vegetarian > nervous, grumbly; lots of animal fats > aggressive, superficial; lots of fruit > funny, clown.

  • Gut bacteria created homo sapiens to carry it between the refrigerator, the sofa in front of the TV and the toilet.

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