The study on rodents, published in the journal ‘PLoS one,' found that short-term indigestion in early life could affect the psychological balance later on.
Professor and chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at the university, and the lead author Dr. Pankaj Pasricha said, "A lot of research has focused on understanding how the mind can influence the body."
“But this study suggests that it can be the other way around. Gastric irritation during the first few days of life may reset the brain into a permanently depressed state."
The study suggested that the time of stomach aches in an individual's life is an important factor in influencing the psychological balance. It also emphasized that genetic factors influencing stomach aches may not lead to mental disorder.
Study on rodent behavior
The team treated 10-day-old rodents to mild stomach discomfort every day for six days to verify their hypothesis.
After eight weeks, the rats showed behavioural changes, such as drinking less sugar water, less-active swimming, and confining themselves to darker areas in a maze, which was not seen in their peers.
Researchers also observed that an increased dose of stress hormones -- corticosterone and corticotrophin--or blocking sensation from their gut with a drug did not change the treated rats’ behavior.
However, the rats behaved normally when the activity of a known depression-linked hormones’ was inhibited.
Further studies may lead to better treatment
The researchers are already considering further studies on the signal pathways and the corresponding reaction of the brain, which can be used to treat depression and anxiety.
Dr Pasricha said, "The gut and the brain are hardwired together by the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the body's internal organs.”
"We'd like to know whether the vagus nerve is involved, and confirm what changes may occur in the brain in response to this signal," said Dr Pasricha.
"The vast majority of humans don't experience any long-lasting consequences from transient infections. But there may be subset of patients who are genetically predisposed to this effect by mechanisms we don't yet understand yet."