Digestive problems can give
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A study of laboratory rats by researchers at the
Stanford University School of Medicine has indicated that depression and anxiety
may result from short-term digestive irritation early in life .
The findings suggested that some human psychological conditions might be the
result, rather than the cause, of gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable
"A lot of research has focused on understanding how the mind can influence the
body," said Pankaj Pasricha, professor and chief of gastroenterology and
"But this study suggests that it can be the other way around. Gastric irritation
during the first few days of life may reset the brain into a permanently
depressed state," added Pasricha.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers used a laboratory model of functional
dyspepsia they had developed years earlier. They subjected 10-day-old laboratory
rats to mild stomach irritation daily for six days.
"We hypothesized that this treatment might also be affecting the development of
central nervous system, and driving the animals to anxiety and depression," said
Indeed, as the researchers assessed the behaviour of the treated rats when the
animals were 8 to 10 weeks old, they found that those rats with early gastric
irritation were significantly more likely than their peers to display depressed
and anxious behaviours including a decreased consumption of sugar water,
less-active swimming in a pool of warm water and a preference for dark rather
than light areas in a maze.
"It seems that when the rats are exposed to gastric irritation at the
appropriate point in time," said Pasricha, "there is signaling across the gut to
the brain that permanently alters its function."
The study has been published in the PLoS One.
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