1 Tahrcountry Musings: Can Bacteria Increase Learning Behavior?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can Bacteria Increase Learning Behavior?

It is a known fact that exposure to certain bacteria in the environment have antidepressant qualities. Research findings presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego yesterday, by Dr. Dorothy Matthews and Susan Jenks of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, goes a step further. According to the researchers, Mycobacterium vaccae the natural soil bacterium which people are likely ingest or breath in when they spend time in nature could increase learning behavior.
Matthews and Jenks fed live bacteria to mice and assessed their ability to navigate a maze. This was compared with control mice that were not fed the bacteria.
The researchers found that mice that were fed live Mycobacterium vaccae, navigated the maze twice as fast when compared to control mice.
In a second experiment the bacteria were removed from the diet of the experimental mice and the test was repeated. The mice ran the maze slower than they did when they were ingesting the bacteria, but they were still faster than the controls.
A final test was done after three weeks' rest. The experimental mice continued to navigate the maze faster than the controls but according to researchers the results were no longer statistically significant. This points out that the effect is temporary limited to the time when they were ingesting the bacteria. The research definitely suggests that Mycobacterium vaccae may play a role in learning in mammals.   

The researchers end their note speculating the interesting possibility that creating learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where Mycobacterium vaccae is present may improve the ability to learn new tasks. This also underlines the fact that benefits of spending time in wilderness has multiple benefits

1 comment:

Vasanti Raghavan said...

Really great post Mohanji