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According to a recent exploratory study out of Clarkson University, researchers suggest microbes in our gut may play a role in certain personality traits.  

The authors of the study published in the journal Nutrients said the purpose of the study was to “investigate the correlation between mental energy (ME), mental fatigue (MF), physical energy (PE), physical fatigue (PF), and the gut microbiome.” 

Simply put, they wanted to identify the link between gut microbiota and a person’s long-standing pre-disposition to mental and physical energy and fatigue. 

Ali Boolani, the lead researcher, said, “Although we are still learning about the gut-brain connection, based on these exploratory findings, we can see that there may be a connection between gut bacteria and trait level energy and fatigue.” 

In a release, the researchers explained that thousands of different types of bacteria live in the gut and comprise what is known as the gut microbiome. According to the release, factors such as dietary habits, physical activity level, and health status can determine the number of each type of bacteria. Also, according to the study authors, the gut microbiome is typically stable through most of one’s adult life unless a person takes antibiotics or there is a gastrointestinal issue. 

Likewise, they noted personality traits are also stable and can take years to change. So, the researchers explored a link between the two, and according to the report, they found a potential correlation. 

The distinct bacteria was associated with certain personality traits.

The bacteria that perform metabolic functions are most often connected to feelings of energy, while the bacteria associated with inflammation are most often linked with feelings of fatigue. The authors said that one bacterium was associated with three of the four personality traits, but none were noted between all four traits. 

The study focused on 20 physically active adults. However, Boolani and his colleagues noted that larger and more extensive studies are needed to confirm these exploratory findings.

Boolani said that the findings shed light on the need to explore the gut microbiota to see if it determines mood and cognitive responses to various nutritional interventions, rather than just focusing only on neurotransmitters.  

“These new findings support my previous work where we report that feelings of energy are associated with metabolic processes, while feelings of fatigue are associated with inflammatory processes. Since we are still learning about the gut microbiome, we don’t know whether if we try to change our personality trait, we might see a change in gut microbiome; or if we try to change our gut microbiome, we might also change our personality trait.”  

Boolani and his research team plan to duplicate the study with a larger number of participants, with samples from a much larger number of participants at both Clarkson and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.