Of Mice and Parrots

Today my attention was caught by some rather interesting work from Sven Petersen and his team (1) who have shown that the bacterial load in the gut has a marked effect on behavior. The work was with mice, not men, but my first thought was ‘Well, yes’, what’s going on in my gut certainly affects my behavior, whether its after a high dose of broad spectrum antibiotics or a meal of tainted chicken. However, reading in a little more detail shows that not only do hormone levels change, but also gene expression is altered which affect the neuronal circuits. The result is the mice are much more adventurous, running about all over the place, showing much less anxiety.

The critical period for the micro-flora to be affecting the brain development was the prenatal and early postnatal period. In my January 31st post I drew attention to the work on the ablation of the paternal Grb10 gene giving rise to dominant behavior. One is left to wonder what was Mighty Mouse’s mom eating?

With the thought that reporting on the research of others is simply ‘parroting’ the information comes the urge to share the findings of Dr. Brown of Macquarie U in Oz. His work shows that the parrots in Oz are either right or left footed. The surprise though is that sulfur crested cockatoos are all left footed. Humans are the only other species to show strong limbic preference, with 90% being right handed. Our daily squawk is something else we have in common, although some are more raucous than others.

1. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/01/26/1010529108

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