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A Journey into Microbiota and the Brain – Part One

By Sue Langley | 4 July 2018

It was May 8 and the time was approaching for me to head to Venice to attend an Advanced Course on Microbiota and the Brain with the Neuroscience Society of Advanced Studies (NSAS). 

Furthering my education in neuroscience is really important as new discoveries and research papers are published regularly, and I am always looking for new critiques to incorporate into the Langley Group programmes.

Based in Italy, The Neuroscience Society of Advanced Studies, or NSAS, is home to ongoing advanced courses and workshops across different areas of neuroscience. Their faculty and speakers are appointed from only the world leaders in each field and the attendees of advanced courses and workshops are established scientists seeking to expand their knowledge, as well as younger investigators or professionals.

Microbiota and the Brain - Advanced Course

My course journey began just before I boarded a plane to Johannesburg, South Africa, to present a keynote at St Stithians College.  

jordan-sanchez-111052-unsplashJust before I left, I had three emails from NSAS directing me to all my course pre-reading.  Opening the first PDF with a small flutter of excitement I was met with...

“Commensal microbiota affects ischemic stroke outcome by regulating intestinal γδ_T cells”.   That was the title.

Unperturbed, I started on the abstract and, to give you a flavour…

“Commensal gut bacteria impact the host immune system and can influence disease processes in several organs, including the brain.”

So far, so good.

It went on…

“Here we show that antibiotic-induced alterations in the intestinal flora reduce ischemic brain injury in mice, an effect transmissible by fecal transplants. Intestinal dysbiosis alters immune homeostasis in the small intestine, leading to an increase in regulatory T cells and a reduction in interleukin (IL)-17–positive gd T cells through altered dendritic cell activity. Dysbiosis suppresses trafficking of effector T cells from the gut to the leptomeninges after stroke. Additionally, IL-10 and IL-17 are required for the neuroprotection afforded by intestinal dysbiosis. The findings reveal a previously unrecognized gut-brain axis and an impact of the intestinal flora and meningeal IL-17+ gd T cells on ischemic injury.”

Coming to Terms with Gut Microbiome

It is fair to say that I didn't totally understand what I was reading! Yet that is what makes these learning experiences so much fun. I love starting in a state of complete confusion, and with a small amount of curiosity, a large amount of persistence and a helping hand from the dictionary, getting to a place where I can start to make sense of things. 

 

The most important part for me is making enough sense of the content to synthesise it into practical strategies for people.  Asking the key questions ‘what does this research mean?’ ‘How can we use it?’

 

After a brain break, I tried another research paper with the title:

“Antibiotic-induced perturbations in gut microbial diversity influences neuro-inflammation and amyloidosis in a murine model of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Having made my way through the article, without the benefit of a dictionary or the internet to look up the words that I didn’t know, I think I understood that plaque deposits are linked to Alzheimer’s, and that taking antibiotics upsets the gut bacteria, which in turn influences plaque deposits. 

Blue brain copy

Hopefully most of us are learning more about the microbiome (gut bacteria) and the impact it can have on non-communicable diseases such as obesity, autism, diabetes, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and multiple sclerosis (MS).

It is fascinating to read the science behind it and more importantly, to work out what we can do with that knowledge.

Connecting Gut Microbiota to Overall Health

Essentially, a conversation is going on all the time between your brain and your gut through the central nervous system.  This conversation is influenced by:

  • neurotransmitters, immune signaling, hormones, and neuropeptides produced in the gut
  • the composition of the gut microbiota
  • the integrity of the intestinal wall serving as a barrier to the external environment.

If the conversation between your brain and your gut is in any way impaired, there can be outcomes of a variety of neurogenerative diseases and auto-immune diseases. 

After my initial research, here is one idea I found really fascinating:

“Therapeutic transplantation of faecal microbiota normalises dysbiosis and improves stroke outcome.”

Essentially that means that transplanting faecal matter can have a positive impact on the brain. This is because the intestinal lymphocytes (white blood cells that determines the immune response to infectious microorganisms and other foreign substances) migrate to the brain and have a positive effect.

How incredible that modern science is exploring these exciting opportunities!

Stay tuned for more on my journey into ‘Microbiota and the Brain’...

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About the Author: Sue Langley

Sue Langley

Sue Langley is a speaker, master trainer, global business consultant, researcher and leading advisor on the practical workplace applications of neuroscience, emotional intelligence and positive psychology. She is CEO and founder of the Langley Group of companies and creator of the world's first government accredited Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing.

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