Gut and Brain Connection Research

Goals

To have a broad understanding of the brain and gut connection. An ideal response would include information, data, and/or statistics surrounding how the food people consume can impact and affect brain health, both in the short term, and long term. In other words: the gut and brain connection.

Early Findings

  • According to John Hopkins Medicine, every human has a second brain. "Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way a person can think. Scientists call this little brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). And it’s not so little. The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum."
  • According to the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, Jay Pasricha, M.D., research suggests that digestive-system activity may affect cognition (thinking skills and memory), too. This is an area that needs more research, something we hope to do here at Johns Hopkins." Another area of interest highlighted in the article is "discovering how signals from the digestive system affect metabolism, raising or reducing risk for health conditions like type 2 diabetes. This involves interactions between nerve signals, gut hormones and microbiota—the bacteria that live in the digestive system."
  • According to Harvard Medical School, "the brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach's juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected."
  • We curated a transcript to a TED Talk done by Mia Nacamulli. This talk discusses what a person decides to bite, chew and swallow, has a direct and long-lasting effect on the most powerful organ in a person's body: the brain. If a video is preferred to watch and listen to, that can be accessed here.
  • In another Harvard Medical School source, what a person consumes "directly affects the structure and function of a person's brain and, ultimately, their mood."
  • "Diets high in refined sugars are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening the body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function."
  • According to the authors of this study, they "observed that eating a diet high in fat and sugar, even for very short periods of time, causes obesity and can have negative effects on the hippocampus. Because the hippocampus is an important brain region for memory formation, the authors believe that these neuronal and glial cell changes could have a negative effect on memory and learning."

Summary Of Our Early Findings Relevant To The Goals

  • Our initial hour of research was spent ensuring that there were enough recent and credible publicly available sources to answer the research questions, and then we provided some salient and relevant pieces of data to set the table for future research.
  • Please select one or more of the options provided in the proposed scoping section below.

Proposed next steps:

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