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The Way to a Mouse's Brain Is Through its Stomach

Most researchers says that there are "open lines of communication" between the brain and the bowels, and that in mice, this line allows an individual's gut bacteria to influence behavior, says Not Exactly Rocket Science's Ed Yong. A new study published in PNAS solidifies the evidence for the "gut-brain axis," he adds. Researchers at University College Cork fed mice with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, the probiotic found in many dairy products, and found that the increased levels of probiotics changed the levels of signaling chemicals in the animals' brains, reducing behavior associated with stress and anxiety. "Probiotic bacteria — those that benefit their host — are the subject of sweeping, hand-waving health claims. But beneath the breathless marketing hype, there is some intriguing underlying science," Yong says. "For example, some trials have found that probiotics can help to alleviate the mood symptoms that accompany irritable bowel or chronic fatigue syndrome." The UCC researchers found that their probiotic mice were more likely to spend time in the exposed parts of their maze, suggesting they had less anxiety than other mice, and were also less likely to drift motionlessly when dropped in water, showing that they were not depressed. The bacteria also boosted GABA levels. That doesn't mean that eating lots of yogurt will cure your depression, Yong says, and it's not even clear if the gut-brain relationship in mice can be applied to humans. But this study does provide evidence that such trials should be extended to humans, he adds.

The Scan

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.