Social connection and touch plays a key role in our physical and mental health through our gut bacteria and the “gut-brain axis”, according to research published November 11, 2022 by

Dr. Katerina Johnson, a research associate at the departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry at Oxford University, found that more sociable monkeys have a higher abundance of beneficial gut bacteria, and a lower abundance of potentially disease-causing bacteria.

Dr. Johnson and her team studied nearly 40 rhesus macaques on Monkey Island near Puerto Rico. They collected 50 stool samples from this group and analyzed their microbial composition.

The most sociable monkeys possessed consistently higher concentrations of known beneficial and anti-inflammatory bacteria such as Faecalibacterium and Prevotella.

Dr. Johnson team also found an abundance of Streptococcus, known in humans to cause diseases such as strep throat and pneumonia, in less sociable monkeys. These monkeys showed autism-like, disconnected symptoms.

University of Oregon neuroscientists Judith Eisen and Philip WashBourne found similar results in their research on zebrafish and mice, as reported by SciTech Daily. The University of Oregon researchers discovered a set of neurons in the zebrafish brain that are required for one kind of social interaction. The team found a pathway linking gut microbes that create cells called microglia to these neurons. Zebrafish who lacked these neurons were socially deficient.

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