0

Stomach Bacteria Affects The Way Our Minds Work (Or Don’t Work)

fb share tweet share

GutsYou are what you eat. We all know it’s true to some extent, but if you’re like me, this cliché will always induce an eye-roll. But leave it to science to give credibility to this adage — recent studies indicate that our gut’s microbes directly affect our brains.

UCLA professor Emeran Mayer is currently conducting a study to test the theory that as we grow up, our digestive bacteria may help form our brain structure, which means that gut bacteria would continue to affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors throughout adulthood. Mayer is conducting MRI scans on thousands of volunteer subjects, and is comparing their brains to their guts, particularly gastro-intestinal bacteria. He has only analyzed data from 60 of the volunteers, but has already found indications of a connection.

Mayer’s preliminary results indicate that the connections between different regions of subjects’ brains depend on the kind of bacteria most prominent in their guts. Apparently, we all have a particular species of bacteria that rules over our GI processes, and the specific mix of microbes in our bellies affects the development and wiring of our brain circuits. Mayer is quick to point out, though, that that doesn’t mean changes in behavior are necessarily a result of those microbes. Identifying causal connections and teasing out exactly how they work will take additional research, as well as the analysis of data from the rest of the test subjects.

0

Evidence Of 3.48-Billion-Year-Old Microbial Life Found In Australia

fb share tweet share

PilbaraWhy does Australia get all the cool fossils and signs of ancient life? It must be the jolly spirit and amazing accents. Scientists have found signs of ancient microbial life in the Dresser Formation, an outcropping of rocks in Western Australia. The newly discovered traces date back almost 3.5 billion years, back to when Earth was in its infancy. Scientists believe Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but it wasn’t until 100-200 million years later that water-indicating minerals and continents formed. Scientists have long wondered when exactly life started out of that soupy mix, and what it looked like.

0

Cthulhu Lives! Inside of Termites!

fb share tweet share

Who would have known that mankind’s demise could fit beneath a microscope? Well, anyone who ever believed that disease would be the thing to wipe out humanity. But this isn’t about a disease. This is about an otherworldly monster that will feast upon our souls and the very fabric of the universe itself! Or maybe just a little wood, if you’ve got some.

If you’ve ever wondered how termites were able to eat wood at such a steady rate, it’s because their stomachs contain gut microbes that assist in turning the wood into digestible sugars, and two of these little buggers now have the distinction of being named after the cosmic entity from sci-fi/horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The University of British Columbia’s Erick James and his colleagues discovered the tiny, 10mm-long beings and noticed both of them to have heads covered with flagella; the larger of the two had a bundle of more than 20, while the smaller one only had five.

Cthulhu macrofasciculumque CREDIT: University of British Columbia

Cthulhu macrofasciculumque CREDIT: University of British Columbia

Cthulhu macrofasciculumque is what you can call that larger one now, and the smaller one has been named Cthylla microfasciculumque, though you might do better to call them Mr. and Mrs. if you see them in public. Let it be known that Cthylla wasn’t a Lovecraft creation, but was imagined up in the 1970s by Cthulhu Mythos writer Brian Lumley to be Cthulhu’s secret daughter. And while it’s great and all that such a unique homage was paid, it’s a very cool discovery in every other way as well.

0

Mars Could Harbor Microbial Life Even Now

fb share tweet share

Mars

The recent news of microbes being present in at least one lake beneath Antarctica has reaffirmed many suspicions that some form of life exists among the harsh climates of our red neighbor, Mars. I’m not sure why no one believed me when I started saying this 15 years ago. I mean, I took the aluminum foil off my head and everything.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute and the UK Centre for Astrobiology hosted a “Present-Day Habitability of Mars” conference earlier this month at the University of California Los Angeles, which included various presentations from astronomers and scientists from all over the country.

Chris McKay of NASA’s Ames Research Center focused on microbial life, and the similarities between Antarctica, the Atcama desert, and Mars in terms of cold and arid conditions and radiation levels, which Antarctica gets hit with due to the hole in the ozone that opens up from August to November. McKay also theorized that organisms shielded from UV rays by deeply embedding themselves in rocks may still be close enough to the surface to experience the benefits of photosynthesis. He also discussed a process called deliquescence, during which salt and other compounds on the ground use moisture from the air to turn into a liquid.