Gut Bacteria Found To Influence Behavior In Toddlers
Results from a new study into the character traits of young children, and correlation to the micro biome living in their digestive tracts reveals that being adventurous, shy, fidgety, or cuddly may depend on the types of bacteria present in the children’s guts.
Researchers looked at children between the ages of 18 and 27 months, and analyzed the microbial contents in their gastrointestinal tracts. What they found was that the abundance and diversity of specific bacteria has an observable influence over the behavior of children, mostly among boys. This influence on behavior by microbes in the gut was found to be independent of other factors that affect the micro biome of young children, like breast-feeding, diet, and method of childbirth.
The intention of the study wasn’t to discover which bacteria to introduce in a child’s digestive system to program the desired type of behavior, however. Rather, the study aimed to find out how and why illnesses like obesity, asthma, allergies, and bowel disease start to develop.
A clue that lead to the study’s initiation was evidence that bacteria life in the intestines interacts with stress hormones in the body. These stress hormones are implicated in the development of chronic childhood diseases like asthma and obesity. By studying how a child reacts to stress, their temperament or personality can be determined. When this information is combined with data about the contents of their micro biome, changes in diet can be made that may prevent the development of childhood health issues before they start.
Analysis of the data collected by the study resulted in the following observation: the greater the diversity of the bacteria living in a given child’s gastrointestinal tract, the more likely they are to exhibit character traits like positive moods, curiosity, sociability, and impulsivity. One other interesting conclusion drawn from the study was that for boys only, the abundance of certain types of bacteria including Rikenellaceae, Rumincoccaceae, Dialister, and Parabacteroides indicated a more extroverted personality.
The evidence that gut bacteria communicate with the brain to influence behavior and personality traits has been accepted by mainstream science for some time. What hasn’t been determined is where the activating principle for this communication lies; in the bacteria or in the brain or in both? Researchers question if outgoing children are that way because their brain produces less stress hormones than shy children or if the bacteria in the gut regulates the stress hormones more effectively.