Researchers discovered that a specific type of bacteria in the gut can improve the cognitive functions and memory of bumblebees. They believe these findings may be useful for humans as well.
The international team – from China, the UK, and Finland – was conducting research into how the gut-brain relationship can enhance memory when the bacterial species Lactobacillus apis caught their eye. The researchers found that long-term memory tests showed bees who had more bacteria in their digestive system performed well.
Scientists set up 10 fake flowers in an enclosed area. Half of the fake flowers tasted sweet while the other half was bitter. After several exposures, bees were left in their hives for three days. The researchers then checked to make sure they remember which flowers they liked best.
Not only does a naturally occurring higher amount of this bacterial species in a bee’s gut make for a better memory, they discovered, but by adding the same bacteria to their diet, their capacity to remember could be artificially enhanced.
According to the scientists, these findings could apply to humans too, according Nature Communications. The results of the study suggest it may be possible to improve our cognitive ability and reduce the factors linked to its decline by manipulating gut microbiota – the trillions of microbes in our bowels.
Researchers believe the bacteria might also be improving its fitness by increasing the cognitive ability and longevity of its host. Bees that have more vivid memories are likely to bring in more food for the colony, which could lead to a longer lifespan.
“It’s amazing to find out the specific memory-enhancing bacteria species,”Professor Wei Zhao is the author of this study. “The results further validate our belief that we may improve our cognitive ability via the regulation of gut microbiota.”
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