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Collective unconscious: How gut microbes shape human behavior

Published in Brain/Neurology.

The human gut harbors a dynamic and complex microbial ecosystem, consisting of approximately 1 kg of bacteria in the average adult, approximately the weight of the human brain. The evolutionary formation of a complex gut microbiota in mammals has played an important role in enabling brain development and perhaps sophisticated social interaction. Genes within the human gut microbiota, termed the microbiome, significantly outnumber human genes in the body, and are capable of producing a myriad of neuroactive compounds. Gut microbes are part of the unconscious system regulating behavior. Recent investigations indicate that these microbes majorly impact on cognitive function and fundamental behavior patterns, such as social interaction and stress management. In the absence of microbes, underlying neurochemistry is profoundly altered. Studies of gut microbes may play an important role in advancing understanding of disorders of cognitive functioning and social interaction, such as autism.