The Gut, The Brain and Child Development
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child development

“Trust your gut” – how many times have you heard someone say that? Well, today “going with your gut” has taken on a whole new meaning.

That’s because our intestinal tract is the largest source of nerve cells outside the brain and it’s well established that the microbes there talk to the brain by interacting with the nerve networks in the gut. New research now suggests that our gut microbiome is likely to have a key role in how the brain develops during childhood. Hmmm… not sure parents appreciate one more thing they have to worry about.

Researchers compared a developing child’s gut microbiome with their brain activity. For kids under two years old, there was a strong association between early brain network function and Bifidobacterium. Bifidobacterium longum was found to be associated with brain activity linked to our ability to pay attention. That’s an important milestone for a baby, to see how well they can focus on external stimuli.

Another Bifidobacterium, B. pseudocatenulatum was found to be associated with language development. Speech development is another key milestone for children. Maybe it’s not so surprising then that Bifidobacterium is one of the earliest colonizers of the intestinal tract after birth. And it turns out that infants who have high numbers of it are breast fed.

Researchers in the study plan to follow the children’s gut microbiome for seven years to see if Bifidobacterium or other bacteria continue to have an impact on key developmental areas. Maybe in the future, parents will be able to buy probiotics teeming with the right bacterium for their baby.

For more information…

Gut bacteria might influence how our brains develop as children
Sophie Rowland at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and her colleagues analysed the microbial DNA in stools from 250 children and paired the information with data on brain activity obtained using fMRI brain scans.

The microbiota–gut–brain axis: A promising avenue to foster healthy developmental outcomes
In this report, we briefly examine the role of the gut microbiota in human life, focusing on links with health, cognition, and behavior. We then discuss the development of the gut microbiota and the critical early window in which colonization occurs. Then, we review current nonnutritive means of influencing the gut microbiota in early life. Finally, we discuss the implications this work has for early intervention in low-income communities and end with recommendations regarding further research and research funding priorities...