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Microbial Mind Control

How Our Gut Bacteria May Be Shaping Our Behaviour and Identity

Our microbiome, the collection of microbes residing on our skin and within our bodies, has been shown to impact our susceptibility to various diseases. Recent research also suggests that these microbes may shape human behaviour.

A study published in Nature revealed that the gut microbiome of exercising mice sent signals to the brain, inducing a "runner's high," thereby influencing their motivation to exercise. This raises the question of whether our gut microbiome could similarly affect human behaviours, such as socializing or making healthier choices.

One intriguing microbe is Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that increases risk-taking behaviour in infected animals. Approximately 30% of humans are also infected with this parasite, which has been linked to increased entrepreneurial aspirations and business ventures in infected individuals.

Additional research has uncovered more connections between the microbiome and human behaviour. For example, studies have found that certain gut bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation. This suggests that our microbiome may have a role in mental health and emotional well-being.

Another study discovered that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have altered gut microbiomes compared to neurotypical children. While the relationship is not yet fully understood, it highlights a potential connection between the gut microbiome and neurodevelopmental disorders.

In summary, our microbiome may not only influence our risk of various diseases but also affect our behaviour, mental health, and neurological development. Further research is needed to fully understand these connections and their implications for human health and well-being.


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