Changing gut bacteria affects brain function
Eating yogurt containing probiotic bacteria may affect the way your brain functions, according to new research from UCLA. The study found that among healthy women who regularly ate yogurt containing the beneficial bacteria, brain function was altered, both in a resting state and in response to emotion-recognition tasks. Researchers have known that the brain sends signals to the gut--which is how emotions can affect gastrointestinal symptoms--but this study focused on how the gut may communicate with the brain.
This study involved 36 women between the ages of 18 and 55, who were then divided into three groups – those who ate yogurt with probiotics twice a day for four weeks, those who ate a yogurt-like product with no probiotics, and those who ate no such products at all. The researchers used functional MRI scans before and after the four-week study, and found that the women who ate the probiotics showed different reactions in the brain sections devoted to emotion, cognition and sensory-related activity than those women who did not eat the bacterial yogurt.
This study strengthens the belief that eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is an important aspect of brain functionality. Changing the bacterial environment in the gut appears to affect the way the brain functions, opening the door for future research that could lead to dietary or drug treatments to improve brain function.