“When animals find and eat a meal, for instance, the vagus nerve is activated and this global positioning system is engaged,” Kanoski said. “It would be advantageous for an animal to remember their external environment so that they could have food again.”
The study was published on June 5.
Disruption disorients the internal compass
To examine this gut-brain connection, the research team conducted the study on rats. They saw that rats with their gut-brain vagus nerve pathway disconnected could not remember information about their environment.
“We saw impairments in hippocampal-dependent memory when we cut off the communication between the gut and the brain,” said lead author Andrea Suarez, a PhD candidate in biological sciences. “These memory deficits were coupled with harmful neurobiological outcomes in the hippocampus.”
Specifically, the disconnected pathway affected markers in the brain that are key for the growth of new neural connections and new brain cells.