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Researchers investigate the interaction of bowels and the brain

Anxiety and depression often arise parallel to illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, functional dyspepsia or the irritable bowel syndrome, according to the pharmacologist and neurogastroenterologist Peter Holzer of the Medical University of Graz. Within the context of animal experiments, Holzer and his team were able to demonstrate significant changes in the brain in a recently concluded project funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF. These changes are linked both to pain memory and emotions, the FWF said.

In Holzer’s opinion, the intestines and the brain continually exchange an enormous amount of information which is transmitted via neural signals, hormones and cytokines. Enteritis (inflammation of the intestines) increases the sensitivity to pain. In another study, it was shown that mice become depressed when a certain intestinal hormone (peptide YY) is missing. They were much more anxious and prone to stress. 

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