Almost every one of us knows that the human digestive tract is the home to a vast community of microorganisms known as the gut microbiome and there are around 1,40,000 viruses in humans’ gut. Recently, researchers have found that the microbiome in an infant’s gut could help in monitoring neurological development. You might have noticed that some children react to perceived danger more than others. 

Researchers discovered that the gut microbiome shapes children with strong fear responses and infants with milder effects. They found that the newborns with less balanced gut microbiomes indicate larger abundances of particular bacteria in the stomach which exhibits heightened fear behavior as compared to newborns with more balanced gut bacteria overall.

To investigate further if the gut microbiota was linked to fear reaction in infants, the researchers had an experimental study on 30 babies with an age of about one-year-old. The researchers chose the group to ensure that as many parameters influencing the gut microbiota remained similar as feasible. Researchers were dressed with Halloween-style masks in front of the children, including a horse mask, a monkey mask, and an alien mask, to examine their panic reactions.

Each child’s facial fright, verbal anguish, physiological terror, escape behavior and startle reaction were all rated. While it may appear to be cruel to the newborns participating, the researchers ensured that the experience was not too frightening for the babies. Then the researchers analyzed samples to describe the children’s microbiota and measured a kid’s terror reaction. 

After analyzing all the data, the researchers discovered that there were strong correlations between particular aspects of the gut microbiota and the severity of newborn anxiety reactions. The researchers also revealed that the composition of the microbiome shapes the children at one year of age and they all were connected to fear reactions. Infants with heightened reactions had more of some types of germs and less of others as compared to less scared youngsters.

The scientists also used MRI equipment to scan the children’s brains as part of the study. They discovered that the size of the amygdala, a region of the brain involved in making immediate choices about possible dangers, was related to the composition of the microbial community after a year.

The researchers mention that the microbiota may have an impact on how the amygdala grows and functions. That’s just one of the many intriguing possibilities found by this new study, which the team is now attempting to repeat.