How Does Food Affect Your Mood?
It has long been assumed that the gut and the brain communicate via a slow, hormonal pathway. Now a paper that has just been published in the renowned journal 'Science' shows that there is a faster means of communication between gut and brain.
By researching a mouse model, they were able to show that the gut and the brain are connected via one single synapse (the space between nerve cells).
A cell in the gut (the so-called enteroendocrine cell) transfers its information to a nerve ending just outside the gut. At the connecting nerve ending (the synapse), the neurotransmitter glutamate - the most important excitatory transmitter in the nervous system - passes on the information about our nutrition to small nerve endings of the vagal nerve, which spreads from the brain to the intestines.
By travelling along this vagal nerve, the information from the gut reaches the brainstem within milliseconds. The authors suggest that this rapid connection between the gut and the brain helps the brain to make sense of what has been eaten. Through back-signalling, the brain might also influence the gut. In sum, this finding is an important step towards a better understanding of how the gut and the brain communicate.
Findings such as this one help us to find ways to positively influence our brain states and our mental health by our food choices.
Kaelberer, M.M., Buchanan, K. L., Klein, M. E. et al. (2018), A gut-brain neural circuit for nutrient sensory transduction, Science, Vol. 361, Issue 6408_