June 30 (UPI) — A recent study at the University of California at Los Angeles suggests gut microbiota can interact with regions of the brain associated with mood and behavior.
The study, which was published June 28 in Psychosomatic Medicine, consisted of 40 female participants who provided fecal samples along with undergoing magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, of their brains.
The MRI scans were taken while the women viewed images of people, activities and things that elicited emotional responses.
Study participants were divided by their gut bacteria composition: 33 had an increased number of Bacteroides and seven had an increased number of Prevotella bacteria.
Women who had increased amounts of Bacteroides bacteria also had greater thickness in the gray matter of the frontal cortex and insula, regions associated with processing complex information.
There were also larger volumes of the region involved with memory processing known as the hippocampus.
Women who had more Prevotella had more connections between emotional, attentional and sensory brain regions and lower volumes in several regions of the brain including the hippocampus.
The results showed that interactions between the brain and gut microbiota are common in healthy people, however, researchers do not yet know whether bacteria in the gut influence the development of the brain during unpleasant emotional times or if existing differences in the brain influence the type of bacteria in the gut.