I THOUGHT I’d delve into the medical file and I found two stories that have more to do with the health of our heads than our bodies. Have you noticed when you’re surfing the web that a lot of people sure think that everybody else is out to get them? Yes, I know even paranoiacs have enemies, but research conducted at the University of Kent in England has shown that people are more likely to believe conspiracy theories if they are willing to conspire.
The title of the paper, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, was “Does it take one to know one?” and it looked at the responses of 250 undergraduates to 17 alleged conspiracies, like the 'assassinations' of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, the 'faking' of the moon landings, and the 'orchestration' of the 9/11 attacks by the U.S. government.
In the first study, participants were asked if they would participate in such conspiracies, if they were in a position to do so. The scientists discovered that when participants indicated a willingness to conspire, they usually found the same conspiracy theories to be plausible, interesting, and worth considering.
In the second study, half of the participants were asked to remember a time when they helped someone. The research team thought this would make people realize that they were moral people. When these participants were compared to a control group, they were less willing to conspire, and as a result, were less likely to take conspiracy theories seriously.
So I guess the bottom line is, “If you’d do it yourself, you probably believe it happened.”
But researchers at McMaster University have uncovered something really mind boggling. You may not have any control over how you feel about conspiracy theories and a lot of other stuff because that ecosystem you harbor in your gut just may be doing your thinking for you. For the first time, scientists have conclusive evidence that the bacteria living in YOUR gut influence both brain chemistry and behavior!
The findings are important because several common gut diseases, like irritable bowel syndrome, are frequently associated with anxiety or depression. There’s also speculation that some psychiatric disorders, like late onset autism, are associated with abnormal gut bacteria.
Your gut is home to over a trillion bacteria. Most of the time we live in harmony with our microscopic ecosystem and they perform a number of functions vital to health. They digest much of your food for you; they protect against infections and provide nutrition for your gut cells.
The researchers worked with healthy adult mice and showed that disrupting the normal bacterial content of the gut with antibiotics produced changes in behavior. The mice became less cautious or anxious. This change was accompanied by an increase in a brain chemical that’s been linked to depression and anxiety. When the antibiotics were stopped, the gut bacteria returned to normal and so did the brain chemistry and behavior patterns of the mice.
In another experiment, the researchers colonized germ-free mice with bacteria taken from mice with a different behavioral pattern. They found that when germ-free mice with a genetic background associated with passive behavior were colonized with bacteria from mice with higher exploratory behavior, the germ-free mice became more active and daring. Similarly, normally active mice became more passive after receiving bacteria from mice whose genetic background was associated with passive behavior.
Feeling anxious? Aggressive? Depressed? Just take this pill containing a live bacterial culture and we can fix that! Scary, eh?
Cruise on over to The Deep website at www.thedeepradioshow.com to learn more about mental health and what causes it and many other topics. Enjoy!