Probiotics are beneficial to your health

August 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Spinewave Bulletin 

What are probiotics?

Your body contains up to 10x more bacteria than it does human cells. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial to health. Via effects on the microbiome and on the human body itself, probiotics may impact every facet of health.

Exponential growth in human microbiome research has evolved our understanding of gut microbiome, probiotics and the breadth of health conditions they influence. An imbalance in the gut microbiome, is linked to numerous diseases, both within the gut and systemically.

Gut microbiome composition – trillions of native, commensal bacteria

2016 research estimates the human microbiome to be made up of approximately 38 trillion organisms, the majority of which exist within the gastrointestinal tract. These organisims are commonly referred to as ‘commensals’ (meaning non-harmful) with over one thousand species currently identified, and many thousands of genetically unique strains; highlighting the diversity and breadth of the microbiome pool.

Rebuild rather than replace – a new understanding of the probiotic impact in the gut

Over the past 10 years it has become clear that some probiotic strains have more health benefits and a broader range of benefits than others. New research shows that some probiotics modulate the quantity, diversity (composition) and function of other bacteria, i.e. the commensal bacteria native to the human gut.

These super strains catalyse the rebuilding of depleted gut microbes that need to be present in significant numbers to form a healthy gut microbiome. In addition, these influential probiotic strains enhance the overall metabolic function of the microbiome. Enhanced function is critical for positive patient results over time, as new science indicates that the function of these live organisms may actually be more important than the quantity of/or diversity (composition) of the microbiome.

The composition of the human gut microbiome

Beyond the gut microbiome

Evidence demonstrates that effective probiotics also improve host functions such as aiding gut barrier integrity, favourably modulating the immune system and positively interacting with the enteric nervous system resulting in clinical benefits to the patient.

Brain training has no effect on decision-making

August 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

 

Increased preference for immediate over delayed and for risky over certain rewards has been associated with unhealthy behavioural choices.

Motivated by evidence that enhanced cognitive control can shift choice behaviour away from immediate and risky rewards, we tested whether training executive cognitive function could influence choice behaviour and brain responses. In this randomized controlled trial, 128 young adults (71 male, 57 female) participated in 10 weeks of training with either a commercial web-based cognitive training program or web-based video games that do not specifically target executive function or adapt the level of difficulty throughout training.

Pre and post training, participants completed cognitive assessments and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of validated decision-making tasks: delay discounting (choices between smaller rewards now vs. larger rewards in the future) and risk sensitivity (choices between larger riskier rewards vs. smaller certain rewards). Contrary to our hypothesis, we found no evidence that cognitive training influences neural activity during decision-making, nor did we find effects of cognitive training on measures of delay discounting or risk sensitivity.

Participants in the commercial training condition improved with practice on the specific tasks they performed during training, but participants in both conditions showed similar improvement on standardized cognitive measures over time. Moreover, the degree of improvement was comparable to that observed in individuals who were reassessed without any training whatsoever. Commercial adaptive cognitive training appears to have no benefits in healthy young adults above those of standard video games for measures of brain activity, choice behaviour, or cognitive performance.

Significance statement

Engagement of neural regions and circuits important in executive cognitive function can bias behavioral choices away from immediate rewards. Activity in these regions may be enhanced through adaptive cognitive training. Commercial brain training programs claim to improve a broad range of mental processes; however, evidence for transfer beyond trained tasks is mixed. We undertook the first randomised controlled trial of the effects of commercial adaptive cognitive training  on neural activity and decision-making in young adults, compared to an active control (playing online video games). We found no evidence for relative benefits of cognitive training with respect to changes in decision-making behaviour or brain response, or for cognitive task performance beyond those specifically trained.

Reference:

Kable, J. et al., No Effect of Commercial Cognitive Training on Neural Activity During Decision-MakingJournal of Neuroscience, 2017. p. 2832-16.

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