Another reason to be nice to your soil microbes
Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?
ScienceDaily (May 25, 2010) Â Exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior, according to research presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.
"Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breath in when they spend time in nature," says Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, who conducted the research with her colleague Susan Jenks.
Previous research studies on M. vaccae showed that heat-killed bacteria injected into mice stimulated growth of some neurons in the brain that resulted in increased levels of serotonin and decreased anxiety.
"Since serotonin plays a role in learning we wondered if live M. vaccae could improve learning in mice," says Matthews.
Matthews and Jenks fed live bacteria to mice and assessed their ability to navigate a maze compared to control mice that were not fed the bacteria.
"We found that mice that were fed live M. vaccae navigated the maze twice as fast and with less demonstrated anxiety behaviors as control mice," says Matthews.