July 11th, 2015| Topic: RaMbLeS | 4


Mark Lyte’s lab in Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center campus in Abilene, Texas, is growing stuff from [grossness alert!] monkey feces.

The alimentary canal is an interesting place that plays host to trillions of bugs. The genetic material of all these guests—weighing more than five pounds in an individual!—is called the microbiome, almost an organ in itself.


You wouldn’t believe what we’re extracting out of poop. We found that the guys here in the gut make neurochemicals. We didn’t know that. Now, if they make this stuff here, does it have an influence there? Guess what? We make the same stuff. Maybe all this communication has an influence on our behavior.’’

What these bacteria do is only now being studied, even how gut bugs communicate with the host’s nervous system using the same chemicals that conduct messages in the host’s brain: dopamine, serotonin, GABA, etc.

The microbiome, with two million unique genes. Our own 23,000 seem a bit paltry in comparison.

Noted Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health:

It has enormous implications for the sense of self. We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human.”

I = bugs + me

Lyte is studying the effect of these bugs on the psyche, looking at psychoactive compounds found in monkey feces. And why not? All kinds of disorders, including anxiety, depression, autism, and hyperactivity, have been connected with gut abnormalities. Hey, change the bug population in the patient, and cure the problem!

Several years ago, another group of scientists from University College, Cork, Ireland, and from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, published studies on mice that linked their gut bacteria to effects on the brain.

The batch of mice that were fed with a broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus, that releases large quantities of the neurotransmitter GABA, were found to be less depressed than mice that were not fed these delicacies.

How did they measure mice depression? Easy. Drop the mice into long glass columns of water—“a forced-swim test.” Watch them try to swim or climb out. Time them. Soon the rodents realize they can do neither and give up = “behavioral despair.” [BTW, that’s how Zoloft and Prozac were first tested … in mice, of course!] The ones with the bugs took longer to reach aforementioned state of despair.

Mind-altering microbes, they call these “psychobiotics.”

Maybe the Semitic writers knew a thing or two, when they were writing the Bible, inspired by God, the Creator of the body.

Many are the references to the guts of the human body, rendered daintily in the King James as “bowels.” Emotions seem to be resident in those locations, according to Scripture.

And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother.
Genesis 43:30 KJV

My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me.
Job 30:27 KJV

My my bowels were moved for him.
Song of Solomon 5:4 KJV

Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me.
Lamentations 1:20 KJV

In fact, in the New Testament, to have compassion is to be moved in the bowels.

For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:8 KJV

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies.
Colossians 3:12 KJV

Even Jesus agreed:

“I feel emboweled for the people.”
Mark 8:2 My Translation

Not a bad thing, then, to move your bowels … of compassion, I mean.


  1. Eric Fan July 12, 2015 at 6:17 am

    Why do poo poo jokes never seem to get old?! 🙂

    I always assume that “emotion from the bowels” is just a figure of speech. Now it looks more like another case of Biblical writers arriving at the truth way before the scientists.

    • Abe Kuruvilla July 12, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      It’s hardwired in us to appreciate (?) scatological humor.

      And, yes, it is a figure of speech, but still ….

  2. Michael Crosswhite July 12, 2015 at 4:34 am

    Wow…gut wrenching. 🙂


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