9 Apr 2016

Your microbiome and brain health

From This Way Up, 12:50 pm on 9 April 2016

A new study has revealed the vital role our gut bacteria could be playing in our brain health.

It is the latest in a growing body of research pointing to the importance of the colony of bacteria living inside your gut. Previous studies have already suggested links between the composition of our microbiome and our mood, how likely mothers are to have a preterm birth, our food choices and even how bad a hangover can be after a big night out!

Professor John Cryan and his team at the University College Cork has now discovered how microbes regulate myelin production in the brain. Myelin is a fatty white substance that covers many nerve cells like insulating tape, and increases the speed at which signals from our brain can travel about.

So far, Professor Cryan has only been studying mice, but one day the discovery could provide important pointers for the management and even the treatment of multiple sclerosis, stroke and spinal cord injuries in human patients.

A cross-section of a myelinated axon

A cross-section of a myelinated axon Photo: (CC BY 3.0)