The Gut-Brain Axis: The Impact of Gut Microbiota on Cognitive Performance

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Many people refer to the gut as a second brain, a term that becomes much more impactful when you learn about the gut-brain axis. Your microbiome is home to trillions of microbes that assist digestion, enter the bloodstream and communicate with the brain. This communication occurs through the gut-brain axis, which plays an important role in cognition, performance and mental agility. Understanding the relationship between gut and brain health is critical for optimizing overall wellness.

What is the Gut-Brain Axis? 

The gut-brain axis is a complex communication system that plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. Recent research has shown that the gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract, significantly impacts the brain and cognitive function. 

Dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome, has been linked to various cognitive disorders such as anxiety, depression, and dementia. On the other hand, a healthy and diverse gut microbiome has been associated with improved cognitive performance, including memory, attention, and decision-making.

Imagine the gut-brain axis as the bidirectional communication between gut microbiota and the central nervous system. Multiple communication pathways are available, including neurotransmitters, the vagus nerve, and chemicals produced by gut microbes.

If you’ve ever felt butterflies in your stomach or sudden hunger after watching a food advertisement, these are mild examples of gut-brain communication. On a larger scale, the state of the microbiome can influence significant cognitive conditions like mental health, disease state and memory retention. 

The Impact of Gut Health on Cognition 

A diagram of the Gut Brain Axis
 A Diagram of the Gut-Brain Axis

The gut releases neurotransmitters, hormones, and immunological factors to the brain through direct or autonomic neurons. Neurotransmitters like adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine can all play a role in our overall well-being.  For example, Serotonin can play a significant role in both emotional distress and IBS. More than 90% of the body’s serotonin is synthesized in the gut. 

Research continues to explore methods for enhancing cognitive performance in high-stress environments. In the technology age, the human brain is experiencing more stimulation than ever before. Human gut microbiota is a potential pathway for boosting cognition, mental resilience, and memory processes.  

A 2022 study published in the JAMA network recently observed the connection between cognitive function in midlife and gut microbiota. This is one of the first studies to examine the gut-brain relationship in large community samples. Results revealed that gut microbiota composition was directly linked to cognitive aging. Participants that had a healthier gut, in turn, displayed better brain function and agility. 

Gut-Brain Axis: The Relationship Between Probiotics and Cognition

a photo of the Lyvecap probiotic caps

The first study published about the positive relationship between regular probiotic consumption, gut health, and cognition was performed by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Researchers gave participants a multi-species probiotic every day for four weeks to explore altered brain intrinsic connectivity and responses to emotional attention tasks.

Researchers found there were reductions in intrinsic activity in the mid-brain resting state and mid-brain connectivity. This was a monumental discovery for solidifying the impact of probiotics on gut-brain communication and biological responses. 

Additionally, a 2018 study from Spain explored the cognitive and emotional effects of probiotics on fibromyalgia patients in a clinical setting. Compared to the placebo group, participants who ingested a four-species probiotic daily for eight weeks experienced improved cognition, particularly in decision-making and impulse control. 

Gut-Brain Axis: Neuroprotective Effects of Probiotics on Alzheimer’s Disease

A photo of a doctor looking at brain scans

A 2017 study on an Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)  mouse model revealed promising data about the antioxidant-producing, neuroprotective effects of probiotics on AD. Probiotics were shown to impair neuronal proteolysis, which is a characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease neurons in the brain. 

Additionally, researchers observed a reduction in oxidative stress, a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, and multiple neural changes that positively benefit Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment. Overall, the addition of probiotics positively impacted cognitive function and Alzheimer-fighting neural processes. 

Multiple research projects have backed up this study over the previous years. While more research is needed, the data about the use of specific probiotic formulations for slowing Alzheimer’s progression is positive. 

The Gut-Brain Axis: Gut Dysbiosis and Mental Health 

Dysbiosis is an imbalance of bacteria and microbes in the body. In many patients suffering from anxiety and depression, dysbiosis and gut inflammation are common occurrences. The inflammatory response of the GI tract places stress on the body through the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters. Cytokines are proteins that communicate with immune and non-immune cells, playing a role in many biological functions.

 A 2013 Deakin University School of Medicine study discovered that cytokines were linked to traditional depression symptoms. Healthy participants were given endotoxin infusions to induce cytokines release. Shortly after, they experienced a decrease in mood, cognitive performance, focus, and motivation. 

When a large number of cytokines enter the bloodstream, the blood-brain barrier becomes susceptible to molecules from the porous gut. This release impacts brain function, which may lead to anxiety, depression, and memory loss. 

The Influence of the DeSimone Formulation on Major Depressive Disorders 

A photo of the Lyvecap bottle laying in water

A recent study conducted at University Psychiatric Clinics Basel in Switzerland observed the impact of the DeSimone Formulation on major depressive disorders. The DeSimone Formulation was created by the inventor of Lyvecap, Dr. Claudio DeSimone. 

A group of double-randomized control patients were given probiotic supplements for four weeks in addition to their normal depression treatment. Half of the patients were administered the DeSimone Formulation, whereas the other half were given a placebo supplement. 

Over time, patients taking the DeSimone Formulation showed decreased depression symptoms, which wasn’t true for the placebo group. Brain imaging of the control group displayed decreased activity in the putamen, a portion of the brain associated with depression. Meanwhile, the DeSimone formulation maintained microbiota diversity and increased Lactobacillus, a bacterial strand related to decreased depression symptoms. 

This study highlights the power of the gut-brain axis and the role of probiotics in potential mental health therapies and treatment. The right probiotic that’s supported by science, research and clinical analysis can have a full-body impact on overall wellness

The Takeaway: The Importance of the Gut-Brain Axis

The gut-brain axis is a promising area of research with many potential applications in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and medicine. Further studies are needed to fully understand the mechanisms and pathways involved in the gut-brain connection. Additional research will allow for the development of effective interventions for optimizing cognitive function and overall health.

In conclusion, the gut-brain axis is a complex and fascinating system that plays a vital role in cognitive performance. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for optimal brain function and overall well-being.

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