“Gut feeling” Could Really Be Our “Sixth Sense”

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The connection between our gut and the brains seems to be more direct and work faster than previously thought, shows a new study published in the journal Science. Until now, scientists believed the gut uses hormones to send messages to the brain, but according to Advocator, scientists think that the gut uses synapses.

The discovery is essential to understanding many appetite disorders and conditions, explain the authors of the study.

The Gut and Brain Link

In 2013 researchers discovered that bacteria in the gut affects anxiety and depression. Other studies recently published show that the gut bacteria influence mood and emotions, also being connected to psychiatric disorders.

More and more studies have reflected upon the gut and its influence over the whole body and the brain, but what process did it use to influence the mental states?

Until now, some scientists believed it was communication through hormones in the bloodstream, but the new study has a different opinion, and proof to support it.

Duke University School of Medicine researchers led by Diego Bohórquez, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor of medicine examined the process in which the gut communicates to the brain that it feels full.

They modified a rabies virus and made it fluorescent to be detectable while it travels through the mice’s body. The team of researchers traced the virus, and laboratory analysis showed an interesting discovery.

Neurons moved to the gut cells to connect and create signals. In Petri dishes, the team added sugar and saw that in milliseconds, the neuronal firing was accelerated. This meant that glutamate sent messages from the gut to the brain. Bohórquez concluded that the process doesn’t last minutes or hours like it was previously believed about appetite:

“Here we are talking about seconds.”

He notes that these findings come with “profound implications for our understanding of appetite” because all the appetite suppressants developed so far were targeting “slow-acting hormones, not fast-acting synapses. And that’s probably why most of them have failed.”

Diego Bohórquez concludes that the “gut sense” can be seen as a sixth sense:

“We think these findings are going to be the biological basis of a new sense. One that serves as the entry point for how the brain knows when the stomach is full of food and calories. It brings legitimacy to [the] idea of the ‘gut feeling’ as a sixth sense.”

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.