Gut Bacteria Plays Key Role in Development of Happiness

Levels of serotonin, also known as the 'happy hormone' are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life, according to new research in mice. The study - published in Molecular Psychiatry shows how normal adult brain function depends on the presence of gut microbes during development.

Gut Bacteria Plays Key Role in Development of Happiness

The new research, led by Dr Gerard Clarke, Scientists from the University College Cork, Ireland, shows that the absence of bacteria during early life of mice significantly affected serotonin concentrations in the brain in adulthood. The research also highlighted that the influence is sex dependent, with more marked effects in male compared with female animals.

Professor John Cryan, senior author on the publication says, "These findings are fascinating as they highlight the important role that gut bacteria play in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, and opens up the intriguing opportunity of developing unique microbial-based strategies for treatment for brain disorders."

This research has many health implications as it shows that manipulations of the microbiota by antibiotics and also by dietary interventions such as probiotics, could have profound effect on brain function.

"We're really excited by these findings" said lead author Dr Gerard Clarke. "Although we always believed that the microbiota are essential for our general health, our results also highlight how important our tiny friends are for our mental wellbeing." The authors added that their results demonstrate that central nervous system (CNS) neurotransmission "can be profoundly disturbed by the absence of a normal gut microbiota."

Molecular Psychiatry
10 July 2012