We know from previous studies that differences in gut bacteria can affect our mood, our behavior, and even the way our brains process information—but does the data hold true in reverse? Researchers from the University of Buffalo and UCLA are embarking on a breakthrough study to see what happens when we turn the tables.
Specifically, Professor Jeffrey Lackner and his team want to know if using cognitive behavioral therapy can help reduce the often debilitating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by triggering changes in the gut microbiome. If so, they believe the information may change the way we look at IBS treatment and prevention.
Over the next two years, researchers will follow 30 individuals already enrolled in a broader IBS study. Stool samples will be collected before and after undergoing treatment, and participants will keep track of their GI symptoms throughout. If successful, researchers hope the study may offer new insight into the gut-brain connection and possibly lead to a non-drug treatment option for the millions of Americans suffering from IBS.
“Our research has shown that manipulation of the gut microbiota with probiotics can change the way our brain responds to the environment,” said UCLA’s Dr. Kirsten Tillisch in a news release. “Because the brain-gut-microbiota connection is a two-way street, we believe that central or brain-directed treatments like cognitive behavior therapy may reduce GI symptoms by altering the gut microbiota.”