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The Gander – 11 June

By Dermot - 10th Jun 2015 | 9 views

<h3>Tell-tale temperament</h3>

New research from the Ohio State University, US, has found that the microbiomes in a toddler’s gut influences the way they behave, particularly in boys.

The researchers, at the University’s Centre for Clinical and Translational Science, studied stool samples from 77 girls and boys between the ages of 18 and 27 months and discovered that the diversity and abundance of some bacterial species can influence behaviour, even after breastfeeding, method of childbirth and diet were taken into consideration.

They observed that children with the most diverse types of gut bacteria more frequently demonstrated positive mood, impulsiveness, sociability and curiosity. In girls, behaviours such as self-restraint, focused attention and ‘cuddliness’ were associated with a lower diversity of gut bacteria, but the girls with abundant <em>rikeneliaceae</em> bacteria exhibited more fear than those with more balanced, diverse microbes.

In boys, extrovert personalities were associated with an abundance of <em>rikeneliaceae</em> and <em>ruminococcaceae</em> families and <em>dialister</em> and <em>parabacteroides</em> genera.

“There is definitely communication between bacteria in the gut and the brain, but we don’t know which one starts the conversation,” says co-author Dr Michael Bailey. “Maybe kids who are more outgoing have fewer stress hormones impacting their gut than shy kids, or maybe the bacteria are helping mitigate the production of stress hormones when the child encounters something new. It could be a combination of both.”

Pointing out that the objective of the research was not designed to help parents deal with troublesome behaviour in toddlers, but rather to help identify how and where chronic diseases such as bowel disease, allergies, asthma and obesity begin, co-author Dr Lisa Christian added: “There is substantial evidence that intestinal bacteria interact with stress hormones — the same hormones that have been implicated in chronic illnesses like obesity and asthma.

“A toddler’s temperament gives us a good idea of how they react to stress. This information, combined with an analysis of their gut microbiome, could ultimately help us to identify opportunities to prevent chronic disease issues earlier.”

The results of the study were reported in <em>Science Daily</em>.

<h3>To thine own self…</h3>

Behaving in a way that is not true to our nature can make us feel “dirty,” “impure” and “tainted” and can drive us to perform more charitable deeds in an effort to “cleanse” ourselves, according to new research.

The results, published in the journal <em>Psychological Science</em>, indicate that people who do not act in accordance with their sense of emotions, values and sense of self feel a fundamental violation of their identity.

The team, from the Harvard Business School, the Northwestern University, and Columbia Business School, found that not being authentic in our dealings with others can have similar psychological implications to lying or cheating. This applies in situations where one tries to fit in with a person or crowd who do not share the same values.

This can manifest in physical behaviours, the researchers found. Participants who violated their own sense of self were more inclined to fill in word exercises with cleansing-related terms; for example, they were more inclined to fill in the blanks of ‘w__s’ with ‘wash’, rather than ‘wish’.

They also reported low moral self-regard and the authors suggest that performing selfless acts of kindness or charity is one way people who have ‘violated’ their own sense of self try to rectify the situation psychologically.

Dr Maryam Kouchaki of the Northwestern University explained: “Our work shows that feeling inauthentic is not a fleeting or cursory phenomenon — it cuts to the very essence of what it means to be a moral person.”

She goes on to say that the implications of not being true to one’s self particularly apply in workplaces where a high level of performance is required.

“In order to be responsive to various demands from customers, co-workers and upper management, individuals may find themselves behaving in ways that are not consistent with their ‘true self’.

“In the service industry, for example, service employees are asked to follow precise scripts and use recommended expressions, regardless of their true cognitions and feelings.”

<h3>No pain, no gain</h3>

A team from several different universities have been studying a rare genetic mutation which renders a person unable to feel any pain. While this may be seen as an advantage in some cases, it raises obvious problems, as diseases and injuries can go undetected, leading to potentially fatal consequences.

The team — comprised of researchers from the Department of Orthopaedics at the Medical University of Vienna, the University of Cambridge, the University of Munich and the University of Tokyo — began their work with two unrelated children who have been unable to feel pain since birth.

They then expanded the study to include a wider group with congenital pain perception disorders and by analysing their whole exome, discovered that there were mutations in the PRDM12 gene in patients with congenital analgesia.

The authors concluded that they hope to raise awareness among the medical profession of this rare and highly dangerous disorder.

“The affected children usually come to our attention when their baby teeth start to erupt because they start to bite their own tongues, lips and fingers and in some cases, even bite bits of them off,” commented Dr Michaela Auer-Grumbach of the Medical University of Vienna.

“They are susceptible to bone fractures, which can go unnoticed for a long time because they cannot feel pain… by discovering the cause of the disorder, we are able to provide appropriate genetic diagnosis and counselling for the affected patients and their families.”

The research was published in the latest issue of <em>Nature Genetics</em>.

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