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Brains & Bacteria

July 3, 2015

Growing evidence that populations of gut microbes may affect our brains.



Can gut microbes influence your brain? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Depending on what you feed them, the bacteria in your gut could be messing with your head. That’s the conclusion from a study led by Kathy Magnusson at Oregon State University. After eating diets high in either fat or sugar, mice performed worse on tests of cognitive flexibility; that’s the ability to adapt to new rules. Magnusson says bacteria in the gut may be to blame.

KATHY MAGNUSSON (Oregon State University):

It’s not just about the sugar on your body; it’s also how that high sugar is affecting the gut bacteria. And other researchers have shown that the gut bacteria is communicating with our brain.


Published in the journal Neuroscience, her study shows that the diets changed the composition of bacteria in the guts of the mice, and the greater the change in bacteria, the greater the cognitive deficit. This adds to a growing area of research revealing that bacteria in the gut communicate with and influence the brain. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.