Researchers Find Further Evidence That Schizophrenia is Connected to Our Guts

By Roni Dengler | February 7, 2019 10:48 am
schizophrenia

(Credit: frankie’s/Shutterstock)

More than 21 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia, a profound mental illness that interrupts thinking, language and perception. Quite a few schizophrenic people experience delusions and hear voices. Many of the disease’s symptoms stem from faulty communication between brain cells. And, for decades, scientists have searched for a cure in the brain.

Now researchers say they’ve discovered that the way to heal schizophrenia might be through the gut. There’s an ecosystem of bacteria and microbes that live in our digestive tracts, known as the gut microbiome. And these may lead to some features of schizophrenia, an international team of scientists announced this week in the journal Science Advances. The discovery could revolutionize treatment options for schizophrenia.

“We understand schizophrenia as a brain disease,” Ma-Ling Wong, a medical geneticist at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, who co-led the new research, said in a press briefing. “But maybe we need to re-examine this line of thinking and consider that maybe the gut has an important role.”

Gut-Brain Connection

The idea that the gut is connected to mental health has been gaining traction in recent years. And research is now pointing to a link between the gut microbiome and an array of mental health disorders including anxiety, memory and motor deficits in Parkinson’s disease. A separate study, published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology connected missing gut microbes to depression. Those mounting associations extend to schizophrenia as well, where the mental illness often co-occurs with gastrointestinal disorders marked by atypical gut bugs.

To explore the connection, Wong and colleagues sequenced the genetic material in stool samples from patients with schizophrenia, as well as healthy individuals recruited from the First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University in China.

They found that patients with schizophrenia had less diverse gut microbiomes than patients without schizophrenia, the researchers report. The microbiomes from schizophrenic patients also harbored unique kinds of bacteria. They were so distinct, in fact, that the researchers were able to tell patients with schizophrenia apart from healthy controls based just on the bacteria in their guts.

All-New Approach

The most intriguing evidence came when the researchers gave germ-free mice fecal transplants from the schizophrenic patients. They found that “the mice behaved in a way that is reminiscent of the behavior of people with schizophrenia,” said Julio Licinio, who co-led the new work with Wong, his research partner and spouse. Mice given fecal transplants from healthy controls behaved normally. “The brains of the animals given microbes from patients with schizophrenia also showed changes in glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is thought to be dysregulated in schizophrenia,” he added.

The discovery shows how altering the gut can influence an animals behavior, and it also provides a new target for drug treatment.

“This would give us a completely new pathway toward treating schizophrenia,” Licinio said. “No treatments that we give today are based on a change of the microbes in the gut. So if you could show that would change behavior in a positive way, we would have a whole new way to approach schizophrenia.”

ADVERTISEMENT
  • TLongmire

    The brain is dependent on the stomach(and body as whole) to generate a field that entangles your consciousness not creates it. Perhaps the microbiome is made up of countless small creatures each conscious in there own way and when triggered by environmental factors proliferate seeking dominance. Cordyceps prove a mechanism.

    • Erik Bosma

      Serotonin is manufactured in the gut.

    • https://127.0.0.1 IC Rainbow

      This explanation is way more complex than necessary. Alongside a rather plain description with production of body chemicals the nebular words like “field”, “entanglement” and “conscious” add nothing to improve our predictions considering patient states.

    • http://atleta.hu/ Laszlo Marai

      It doesn’t generate any field. It’s pretty inlikely that there is any field (esp. one that can be modulated at everyday energy levels) that we are not aware of. I.e. one that we cannot measure. Physicists would be very-very surprised.

      • TLongmire

        Actually certain physicists are studying the multidimensional aspect of consciousness and finding evidence. I have no desire to convince you of this but I personally believe that what I am perceiving as my “conscious experience” is infinitely more complicated than “neurons producing chemicals”. 95% of the universe is unmeasurable and on a quantum level reality is manifested only after observing. We are in a primitive time in understanding consciousness and all evidence should be seen as speculative. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3b8fc76f267d675879b1da36c210f5091f154047ad8225fd9b949b4aefa6f404.png

        • http://atleta.hu/ Laszlo Marai

          I’m sorry, but this is BS. Physics is physics whether a specific phenomenon has a say in how your brain works or not. If your brain relies on a specific physical phenomenon to work then that phenomenon has to exist independently of your brain.

          Now we do know that your brain consists of matter and that your mind (however that works) reacts with your brain (think brain injuries, EEGs, etc) and through that with your body. I.e. with matter. What physicists say (e.g. Sean Carroll) is that our general knowledge about physics and the universe pretty much rules out that there is an unknown force (or field) at work here. Simply because the rest of the physics (as a model) wouldn’t work.

          It’s as simple as that and it has *nothing* to do what you *feel* or *experience* about your consciousness. That’s subjective. It’s interesting though that you are not interested in what produces your mind (how that thing really works), but you are more interested in having a specific explanation. It doesn’t matter whether your mind is created by chemicals, electric signals or, as Roger Penrose proposes, by quantum effects (he is pretty likely wrong, BTW).

          It doesn’t make your mind any different. We know what the human mind is capable of, *how* the underlying machinery works is an independent question. Unless, of course you have an agenda and hope to uncover some hidden magical capability that we aren’t aware existed. But that is unlikely too. Why would we have such a thing if we never used it?

          • TLongmire

            Humans as a whole only seek to be justified. We fear the unknown because it offers zero justification and weakens the foundation that we are justified on. Humans are not the only consciousness in the universe and to be confronted by extradementional beings or aliens of any kind( especially super intelligent ones) could damage our ego and most are unwilling to acknowledge such a possibility exists so it’s universally stigmatized. There is evidence our brain is multidimensional and I’ve seen it conceptually.

        • Zotsalot

          Freakin’ awesome!

  • Anna

    Sta­rt getting extra cash weekly… This is a valuable part-time work for anybody… Best part about it is that you can do this job from your couch at home and make $100-$2k every week … Apply now and get your first check by the end of this week…> LALMOST.TUMBLR.COM

  • Kenny

    Note to self: Do not get a fecal implant from a schizophrenic patient.

  • StanChaz

    No doubt this explains Trump’s irrational behavior & tantrums, as triggered by his fast food diet.
    I can just see his poor gut microbes,
    jumping and shouting in despair:
    no more, no more! no more fast food!
    build a wall please, build a wall now
    – and protect us from any more of that fast food!
    What it doesn’t explain however
    is his traitorous & corrupt behavior.

    • April Ritter

      *sigh* There’s always the nut job that has to turn EVERYTHING into a Trump bash.

      • StanChaz

        Awwwh. Did I hit a right-wing nerve?
        Sad to say that’s where the true nut reside in today’s politics *sigh*

        • April Ritter

          No. Just tired of shallow thinkers believing everything revolves around their butt-hurt feelings over Trump. For Gods sake, get over it already. If you can’t comment on topic then perhaps come out of your mom’s basement and tell HER about it. She’s most likely the only one who cares.

        • disqus_G7v5ZFnUg9

          Cringe

        • Jewgle Shekelberg

          Kill yourself.

    • Bob Kaczynski

      Really? U connect and Slander president Trump?
      Take your meds &stfd,TDS is the diagnosis for u. Terminal

      • StanChaz

        OH a Trump supporter!
        I didn’t know there were any left outside of Russia.

        • Bob Kaczynski

          Seems lot of Braidead sheep like u are left.
          Get out from ur basement ,see the world so u UNDERSTAND IT.TDS idiota.
          Now STFD like I instruct you.
          Trump 2020

    • A. Nonnie Mouse

      take your TDS and go away.

    • Cranford Ducain

      AHH, yes. End stinks. And how does this explain the way AOC is acting ???

  • Hewsy Whaiapu

    To be honest,y’all need a bullet”….there’s those out there who really need advise and treatment and have serious problems and still looking for answers…..take your trump talk down the dump n leave it there”…That’s where he belongs with the rest of his supporters….God knows and god bless yall

    • Zotsalot

      I happen to be a Trump supporter. God bless you too.

  • Don

    Still a lot of questions to be answered. Which causes which? Or are both caused by something we haven’t found yet?

  • http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/ Marmalade

    Glutamate related to the diet and microbiome has also been implicated in autism. By the way, besides microbes producing it, glutamate has become a common food additive (e.g., MSG) and goes by many names in ingredient lists. The modern industrial diet of processed foods overdoses us with glutamate, as it does with other substances such as propionate that is also associated with neurocognitive changes.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+