Gardeners know that playing in the soil is good for lifting the spirits, and now it seems there's a biological reason for it. Researchers from Bristol University and University College London found that naturally occurring "friendly" bacteria found in soil may affect the brain in a similar way as antidepressant drugs. Previous studies have linked childhood exposure to bacteria to protection against allergies and asthma. Now it seems it helps with depression as well.
Researchers first became interested in Mycobacterium vaccae bacteria after hearing that cancer patients treated with the bacteria reported increased vitality and cognitive function and a decrease in pain. The scientists theorized that Mycobacterium vaccae might stimulate serotonin production. Low levels of serotonin are linked with a number of disorders including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. Researchers treated mice with Mycobacterium vaccae and found that it did stimulate the part of the brain that produces serotonin. Researchers commented that it sounds like we all can benefit from a little more time playing in the dirt.
For more information on this research, go to: Medical News Today.
Article published on April 23, 2007.