At ULCA, researchers conducted a study that tested women who regularly consumed yogurt containing the beneficial bacteria probiotics if they had any alteration in brain function compared to women who did not eat yogurt. The study showed that the women who ate the yogurt regularly had an alteration of brain function in both a resting state and in a series of tests for recognizing emotions. Researchers speculated that by changing the bacteria’s environment in the gut could result in changes in the functionality of the brain.
    The study was small, 36 healthy women from ages 18-55. The women were divided into three groups: one group was given yogurt with probiotics twice a day for four weeks, one group was given yogurt that was a look-alike yogurt with no probiotics, and the third group did not have any yogurt. MRI scans done before and after the study to compare the results of the brain’s functionality, researchers found that the women who consumed the probiotics yogurt saw a decrease in the insula, which processes and integrates internal processes, as well as in the somatosensory cortex during the emotional-recognition testing. The women also had a decrease in the widespread network of the brain, dealing with emotion, cognition, and sensory-related areas, while the women who did not eat the probiotic yogurt had increased levels of activity. Furthermore, during the resting brain scan, the probiotic women had a higher connectivity in the brain to cognition, while the women not eating any yogurt saw increase of emotional and sensation activity, and the women on the look-alike yogurt fit between the two extremes.
    Researchers were astounded to find the various brain effects, such as sensations and not just simply emotional responses. The linkage of signals between the intestines and the brain will lead scientists to explore new routes of research in various changes in diet to test for varying levels of brain response and functionality.

By Lauren Horne

    Sources:
1)    Kirsten Tillisch, Jennifer Labus, Lisa Kilpatrick, Zhiguo Jiang, Jean Stains, Bahar Ebrat, Denis Guyonnet, Sophie Legrain-Raspaud, Beatrice Trotin, Bruce Naliboff, Emeran A. Mayer. Consumption of Fermented Milk Product with Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity. Gastroenterology, 2013; DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043
2)    University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences (2013, May 28). Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2013/05/130528180900.htm