A toddler’s tendency to have a total meltdown in a busy restaurant may be traced to his or her tummy. In the latest addition to the growing trove of research revealing the link between the microbiome and the mind, scientists found that the diversity and amount of different bacteria appear to impact behavior, particularly among boys.
Ohio State University researchers studied microbes from the gastrointestinal tracts of 77 kids between 18 and 27 months. In their analysis, they factored in history of breastfeeding, diet and the method of childbirth, which may influence the microbe population, according to a university release about the study.
The researchers said they didn’t set out to help parents tame the terrible twos, unfortunately. Rather, they were looking for more info about where and how chronic illnesses like obesity, asthma, allergies and bowel disease begin.
“There is substantial evidence that intestinal bacteria interact with stress hormones—the same hormones that have been implicated in chronic illnesses like obesity and asthma,” Lisa Christian, PhD, a researcher with Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, said in the release. “A toddler’s temperament gives us a good idea of how they react to stress. This information combined with an analysis of their gut microbiome could ultimately help us identify opportunities to prevent chronic health issues earlier.”
The kids with the most genetically diverse types of gut bacteria more frequently exhibited behaviors related with positive mood, curiosity, sociability and impulsivity, according to the researchers. In boys only, researchers reported that extroverted personality traits were associated with the abundances of microbes from the Rikenellaceae and Ruminococcaceae families and Dialister and Parabacteroides genera.
“There is definitely communication between bacteria in the gut and the brain, but we don’t know which one starts the conversation,” the study’s co-author, microbiologist Micahel Bailey, PhD, a researcher with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and member of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
The journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity published the study, which was also noted on sciencedaily.com