Childhood Fear Bacteria | Science and life

Gastrointestinal bacteria communicate closely with the brain. We wrote that microflora can contribute to anxiety and depression, can help to forget past fears, and can deprive parental feelings. All these diverse effects are associated with the fact that the microflora can be diverse: many types of bacteria live in the intestine, their ratio changes (including depending on the diet), respectively, the proportions of signaling substances by which bacteria literally act on nerves.

However, most of the experiments on the effect of microflora on behavior have been done in mice. The question arises, what do people have. Well, in humans, bacteria are also somehow related to the work of the brain. University of North Carolina staff and Michigan State University set up an experiment with thirty-four children. Children for the study were selected in such a way as to unify as much as possible the factors that could affect the composition of the microflora; so, they were all breastfed, none of the children was ever given antibiotics, etc.

When the children were one month old, their intestinal bacteria were analyzed; When they were one year old, a fairly simple experiment was made with them: someone in a scary Halloween mask entered the children. Children were frightened, parents immediately appeared and consoled them. Sometimes, instead of a person in a mask, a stranger without a mask appeared – the children perceived him with caution, because he was not familiar to them.

Some children were very scared of the mask, others were not very much. As you might guess, the power of fear was associated with the composition of the microflora. In an article in Nature Communications it is said that if children at the age of one month had few bacteria of the genus Bacteroides and a lot of bacteria Veillonella, Dialister, and Clostridiales, then in one year such children were more frightened than others. In the same way, children were more frightened, in whom the microflora was especially rich in species composition, but at the same time it was not balanced in the number of bacteria of different types.

The connection between microflora and fear was visible only for the frightening mask. It was just that the children were frightened of a stranger in different ways, but this fear was not in any way connected with the microflora. According to the authors of the work, these are two different fears: a stranger is still perceived as a person, and all emotions with him have a social connotation and are processed by the corresponding centers of the brain.

Fear from the mask is not social, and is born in other nerve centers. Obviously, the microflora has a stronger effect on some nerve centers and weaker on others, and therefore influences differently different forms of behavior. By the way, using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to show that the size of the amygdala, or the amygdala, one of the main centers of emotions in the brain, is associated with the composition of the microflora.

Too much fearfulness in childhood can cause neuropsychiatric disorders in an adult: he is unlikely to continue to be afraid of every shadow and every rustle, but he will have a higher likelihood of anxiety disorder or, for example, depression. Of course, microflora is not the only factor influencing the intensity of emotions. But if you notice such a feature in a child in time, and if you establish that “terrible” bacteria live in him, then, perhaps, with the help of a certain therapy that corrects the composition of the microflora, the little person can be relieved of psychological problems in the future.

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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