Microbiota From Probiotics Have Effect on Emotion and Sensation Areas of Brain
When people think of probiotics, they generally think of maintaining good gut health. A recent study shows, however, that there may be a link between gut health and experienced emotion and sensation. Specifically, researchers found that taking a daily supplement of a fermented milk product containing five probiotic strains daily may change brain responsiveness in women.
The probiotic strains included in the fermented milk product were Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis subsp. Lactis.
Previous studies in animals have shown that modification of gut microbiota can alter emotional behavior and instinctive reflexes. This is the first study to measure this link in humans.
The study included 36 women without any reported gastrointestinal or psychiatric symptoms. Over the course of four weeks, one group ate probiotic yogurt twice daily, the second ate yogurt without probiotics twice daily, and the third served as a control with no intervention.
Functional MRI’s were administered to the participants prior to and after the intervention. The MRI’s measured brain response to pictures of emotional facial expressions.
The researchers found changes in the activity of the areas of the brain associated with emotion and sensation in the probiotic yogurt group, but no changes in the other two groups. They plan further studies to determine which of the brain’s pathways are specifically affected by the microbiota.
The study was conducted by researchers at UCLA and Danone. It was published online ahead of print on March 7, 2012, in Gastroenterology.
Probiotics are most commonly known for improving digestion and gut health, but they have also been linked to other health benefits, including weight loss, a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of chronic disease.
Probiotics can be found naturally in many foods, such as yogurt, milk and sauerkraut. You may also consider taking a high quality supplement but make sure it is packaged to block light, air and moisture which can easily kill probiotics.