Are you guided by gut feelings?
A Florida State University neuroscientist concludes you are, if not by choice then perhaps subconsciously. Research by psychology professor Linda Rinaman finds gut-to-brain signals are a powerful influence on emotions, mood and decisions — typically by prompting you to avoid certain situations.
The paper, published in Physiology and co-authored by James Maniscalco, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, advances scientists' understanding of how the gut-to-brain circuit operates.
"We are excited about the animal research reviewed here, including our own work, because it potentially translates to humans," Rinaman said. "We know the gut-brain pathways are very similar across mammalian species — from mouse to human. We expect these lines of research will help us better understand how gastrointestinal functions contribute to both normal and disordered mental function."
Rinaman said the gut and brain are constantly talking to each other via the vagus nerve. It's a sprawling two-way network connecting the brain to the gastrointestinal tract, which has an enormous surface area and a lot of "sensors." The GI tract is more than 100 times larger than the surface of the skin, and it sends more signals to the brain than any other organ system in the body.