answered on 29 Apr 2020:
last edited 29 Apr 2020 11:43 am
Hi great question! Since the moment you’re born — lots of these small microorganisms called microbes (including bacteria and viruses) move in and live on our skin, in our mouths and even in our guts! I am a scientist that looks at the interactions between the microbes that live in our gut and the brain. What is really amazing is that these tiny microscopic bacteria are very important for digesting certain kinds of food so that we can harness energy from them. Normally for example, we can’t digest certain fibers in onions or sourdough bread – these bacteria are able to break them down so that we can get the energy! These bacteria can also produce extra molecules as a result of breaking down this food and these molecules can send signals to our nervous system! In fact, some of these microbes can produce the same neurochemicals that we have within our central nervous system. We have a lot of studies that are currently ongoing to get a better understanding of how these microbes can affect our brain, but we have some evidence that they may be involved in our stress responses. These bacteria are also changed during many brain diseases (i.e. anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease) – what I mean is the types of bacteria as well as the amount of them differs between people with some diseases compared to people who do not have these diseases. Importantly, we don’t know whether the microbes change because people with many of these diseases have a worse diet, or if microbes can kickstart and contribute to the disease itself! What we do know though, is that these microbes are very important and contribute to some of the symptoms that people with these disease may get. It’s a very exciting field and hopefully we might be able to harness the power of these microbes, and the molecules that they can produce to provide some new treatments for diseases. So technically – it’s not just the human aspects of me that contribute to what I am as an individual, my microbes play a huge role too!