Can good bacteria in our belly improve our minds? Researchers have identified a specific type of bacteria found in our guts that may directly affect a woman’s ability to successfully multi-task.
In a small clinical trial of 34 women between the ages of 25 and 45, scientists from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that when bombarded with multiple tasks, also known as “interference,” the women with high concentrations of a type of bacteria called Bacteroidetes in their fecal samples multi-tasked better than those with lower concentrations.
The sample included obese women as well as those of a healthy weight, since obesity is known to affect the makeup of the gut.
“A converging body of literature demonstrates that the gastrointestinal microbiota are implicated in multiple aspects of health, including cognitive function and brain health,” the researchers, who presented this week at an Experimental Biology conference in Chicago, said.
The scientists noted in their research, published in The FASEB Journal, that while previous experiments have shown similar results in mice, “These results indicate that women with greater relative abundances of Bacteroidetes exhibited greater ability to maintain cognitive (thinking) performance when faced with greater task demands.”
Specifically, the scientists measured “interference” to gauge “executive function,” which is a human’s ability to turn thoughts into action – even if that action is as simple as swallowing a bite of food.
With many forms of dementia, executive function becomes impaired early on, making those who are aging or who have brain disorders unable to care for themselves much earlier in life than would otherwise be the case.
“These findings are among the first to relate bacterial phylogenetic characteristics to executive function among adult humans,” the authors wrote, nothing they also found “an inverse association between reaction time interference” and the ratio of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes, another type of gut bacteria.
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