Health

New study suggests gut microbiota can influence brain structure

In a study recently published in the Diary of Affective Disorders, researchers have discovered evidence suggesting that certain types of gut bacteria may influence the thickness of the cerebral cortex. Study identifies specific bacteria within controls Lactobacilli And Bacilli which are potentially associated with changes in brain structure.

Our gut is full of microorganisms that influence various aspects of our health, from metabolism and immunity to disease risk. Recently, scientists have begun to explore how these microbes might also impact the brain. This interaction between the gut and brain is often referred to as the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Previous research has shown that changes in the composition of gut bacteria are linked to a variety of brain functions and disorders, including cognitive abilities and mental health problems.

However, the mechanisms behind this influence are not fully understood. Traditional studies have faced challenges such as small sample sizes and confounding factors, which can obscure the true effects.

In their new study, researchers from Capital Medical University in Beijing sought to provide clearer evidence using a technique called Mendelian randomization, which allows causal relationships to be inferred from genetic data. This technique exploits genetic variations as natural experiments to explore the influence of modifiable risk factors on health outcomes.

The researchers used genetic data from large public health databases, analyzing genes linked to the presence of certain gut bacteria and their potential impact on the thickness of various regions of the brain. They focused on two groups of bacteria, Bacilli And Lactobacilli, known for their predominant role in human health. The study involved more than 51,000 participants, mainly of European origin.

The researchers identified a statistically significant association between the abundance of Bacilli And Lactobacilli and the thickness of the cerebral cortex. This association was consistent across global measures of cortical thickness and notably across specific brain regions that are crucial for various cognitive and sensory functions.

For Bacilliincreased cortical thickness was observed in brain regions such as the fusiform, insula, rostral anterior cingulate, and supramarginal areas. Lactobacilli showed a similar impact, particularly an increase in thickness in the fusiform and supramarginal regions.

These regions are involved in processes such as visual processing, emotional regulation, sensory perception and cognitive control, suggesting that the influence of these bacteria may extend to these fundamental neuronal functions.

But how would the intestinal microbiota influence brain structure? The researchers noted that gut bacteria affect the metabolic functions of the liver, influencing the synthesis and breakdown of fatty acids which, when altered, can cross the blood-brain barrier and impact neuronal activity. Additionally, gut microbes produce a range of metabolites and hormones that are crucial for the gut-brain signaling system.

Despite its innovative approach, the study has limitations. The results are based on genetic data that predicts bacterial levels rather than direct measurements, which might not reflect the dynamic nature of the gut microbiota. Additionally, the study population was primarily of European ancestry, which could limit the generalizability of the results to other ethnic groups.

Nevertheless, the results suggest that the microbiota-gut-brain axis could be a viable target for therapeutic interventions in neurological and psychiatric disorders. The researchers call for further studies in diverse populations and direct measurements of the gut microbiota to confirm these findings. They also suggest that future research should explore the mechanisms by which these bacteria influence brain structure.

“Overall, our study supports the idea that an interventional approach using probiotic strains (including the order Bacillales and Lactobacillales), prebiotics and potentially fecal microbiota transplantation therapy may be an initiative effective in improving brain function, taking into account cost, feasibility and patient compliance. “, the researchers said.

“By modulating the composition of the gut microbiota and regulating the interaction of the gut-brain axis, these interventions have potential therapeutic value for various neurological disorders. However, additional clinical research is needed to verify the safety and effectiveness of these interventions and to determine the specific details and applicability of optimal treatment protocols.

The study titled “Association of gut microbiota with brain cortical thickness: a Mendelian randomization study” was authored by Lubo Shi, Xiaoduo Liu Shutian Zhang and Anni Zhou.

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