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Can our gut flora determine our personality? University of Porto aims to find out

Can our gut flora determine our personality? University of Porto aims to find out

A new study to determine the overlap between physiology and psychology

The municipal website of Porto informed at the start of this week that a new scientific study is about to take place in the academic sphere of the city. Called “Microbi-A”, it will have the aim of determining how the human gut bacteria influence people’s personality traits.

The research will be led by a team composed of experts from the Institute of Research and Innovation in Health and the Faculty of Dentistry - both of which are part of the University of Porto. Its duration will be four years.

Probiotics and human character: the unexplored link

The scientists are now recruiting participants to assess psychological parameters and provide samples for analysis of their microbiomes and associated metabolites and molecules. In recent years, the human microbiome has become an important target of study as an influencer on the balance between health and disease. 

It is known that microorganisms that inhabit the human body are related to inflammatory conditions and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, among many others. But, in addition to these already established relationships, new hypotheses are also emerging and inviting further exploration.

Since individual differences in personality are associated with differences in brain function and since gut bacteria are able to communicate with the brain through the gut-brain bidirectional axis, the microbiome may be related to personality differences,” explained Carolina Costa, a PhD student in Biomedical Sciences of the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICBAS), whose doctoral thesis served as the origin of the project.

The scientific community has been associating the microbiome with mental health, reporting that the bacteria that inhabit the intestine have a relevant impact on the brain. Depression and anxiety are examples of mental health problems that appear to be related to an imbalance in the microbiome.

The project aims to study the impact of the human microbiome on mental health and its interaction with personality characteristics, to understand how they are related and if their modulation by probiotics could be beneficial,” added Benedita Sampaio Maia, leader of the research team.

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