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Cheers to the probiotic yogurt of the future: bacteria enhance the ability to learn

A new study reveals that bacteria increase the learning ability of mice and lower the level of stress they are under. How do they do this, and what are the consequences for humans?

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
One hundred and fifty years ago, the philosopher Henry David Thoreau left his warm home in the city and moved to live in nature. He built himself a cabin on the banks of a small lake, grew a vegetable garden and tried his best to forget the hustle and bustle of the city and the noise of people. During the two years he experienced in the wild, his turn reached the peak of his writing output. He wrote every day, and recorded all his experiences in his book 'Walden', known to this day as a masterpiece. The conclusion of his turn was that every person can find satisfaction and happiness in setting his own pace for his life, by going out into nature. The book was written at a time when the science of microbiology was in its infancy, so Turo would surely have been amazed if he had heard that it is possible that the bacteria in nature are the ones that help us to put off depression - and perhaps also to sharpen our thinking ability. So, at least, suggests a new study presented this week at the meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

At the heart of the research are the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, which have long been well known for their ability to lower the level of stress and nervousness in mice. Until now, experiments have been done with these bacteria only when they are killed (and sometimes also crushed) and injected into the body of mice. Under these conditions, the dead bacteria cause the brain to increase the production of serotonin, which is a substance responsible, among other things, for moods and a good feeling.

In the new study, the testers decided to feed the mice crackers with peanut butter that also contained a large portion of the live bacteria. After that, the learning ability of the mice was tested using a race in a complex maze. The result was clear for all to see: the mice that ate the bacteria finished the maze in twice as much time as their bacteria-free friends. And if that wasn't enough, they were also less nervous along the way.

After the initial run through the maze proved the superior skills of the mice that were fed bacteria, the researchers decided to stop feeding the mice bacteria, to find out how long their good effect survives. The rodents that originally received the bacteria in their food continued to consistently win the maze races, even after the bacteria diet was stopped. Only after three weeks did the bacteria's beneficial effect on the mice disappear, and they returned to being their bacteria-less and less-intelligent friends.

Is it possible that these bacteria are responsible for the excess of creativity that befell his turn in the great outdoors, or for the fact that many writers long for vacation homes isolated from everyone? Our natural tendency is to connect the data and jump to this conclusion, which is also supported by the fact that these bacteria are common in nature, and that humans and animals outside the city limits are regularly exposed to them in the air and in food. However, it is important to remember that the research was conducted so far only in mice, and it is not yet known whether the bacteria have a similar effect on humans as well. Since it is not clear how the bacteria cause the secretion of serotonin in the brain, it is difficult to determine how humans will react to eating the bacteria, or to abstaining from them.

Another caveat lies in the fact that the research has not yet been published as an article in a scientific journal, but was presented as part of a lecture at a scientific conference. New scientific discoveries are not considered reliable until they are written down and rigorously reviewed by fellow scientists. This does not mean that you can automatically dismiss everything researchers say at scientific conferences, but it is important to be careful not to accept these initial studies as evidence cast in stone.

Even so, what will be the consequences if it turns out that the research was reliable, and more importantly - that the bacteria are able to bring about a similar effect in humans as well? Such a discovery will close the door on the dream of his turn for humans: liberation into the bosom of nature. Shortly after the discovery, a new probiotic yogurt will surely be marketed, capable of increasing learning ability and reducing the stress experienced by drinkers. And who knows? Maybe in ten or twenty years, a patent will also be registered on an artificial bacterium (like this one Created by Craig Venter just a week ago) which is capable of stimulating the brain to secrete even higher serotonin - and lives permanently in the intestines. His turn must have been turning over in his grave. But for better or worse, the power of human technology has always been in our ability to distill from nature its important resources for us, and this is another step in the process. The farewell to the wild life began the day our father picked up the first stick and scratched his back with it. Where will it end? It is still not clear. The only admission is that nature, with its wildness and the wars of existence in it, is better left to the birds, the bees and its turn. We, humans, choose our own path.

A long and tedious video in which the scientist responsible for the research is interviewed


3 תגובות

  1. Roy Shalom, first I would like to thank you for an interesting and broadening review, yes many!
    The link to the source is broken / does not lead to the text.
    If not possible, I would greatly appreciate it if you could post a list of sources or the names of the researchers.

  2. The farewell to the wild life began the day our father picked up the first stick and scratched his back with it. Look at how many stages we have developed since then compared to the Arab world

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