HMS is an annual web-based survey study examining mental health, service utilization, and related issues among undergraduate and graduate students. Since its national launch in 2007, HMS has been fielded at over 180 colleges and universities, with over 200,000 survey respondents.
In experiments asking fruit flies to distinguish between ever closer concentrations of an odour, the researchers led by Professor Gero Miesenböck had previously identified a tiny minority of about 200 nerve cells in the brain as critical for decision-making.
Katerina Johnson (Department of Experimental Psychology) and Kevin Foster (Department of Zoology) assessed data from studies on the gut-brain axis to suggest how ‘that gut feeling’ evolved.
Research has shown that gut bacteria (especially species belonging to Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) can influence social behaviour, anxiety, stress and depressive-like behaviour. Katerina explained: “We know there are numerous possible mechanisms, including communication via the vagus nerve (major nerve linking the gut and brain), the immune system and hormonal changes, as well as the production of neuroactive chemicals by gut microbes. But why should we expect gut bacteria to affect behaviour at all?” In their paper, Johnson and Foster consider the evolutionary pressures that may have led to ‘that gut feeling’.