Does a creamy cup of yogurt make you happy? Do you ever wonder why Jamie Lee Curtis is always smiling in those Activia commercials? It may have something to do with a new UCLA study that claims good bacteria is not only good for the gut, it may also be good for the brain.
The study, conducted by scientists with the Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress, part of the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases, and the Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA, appears in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology. For the purpose of the investigation, a small group of women were given the same yogurt containing several types of good bacteria, also known as probiotics, and instructed to eat it twice a day for four weeks.
Before and after the study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were performed on the women. Their brains were examined at rest, and while performing an emotion-recognition task, which asked the women to look at angry and frightened faces. The result was a change in brain activity, as well as other internal “body sensations.” The women who ate the yogurt had less anxiety when looking at the images.
Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, lead author of the UCLA study is encouraged by the early findings. “Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” Tillisch said. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”