Proof of why you should always trust gut reaction
Gut reaction to a threat is more than a colourful description and may play a key role in determining whether we are fearful or foolhardy, research has suggested. Everyone is familiar with that stomach-churning sensation of being in a scary situation, such as walking down a lonely street at night and hearing footsteps approaching from behind.
Now scientists have shown that it may be more than just a byproduct of fear.
Tests on rats suggest signals sent from the gut to the brain actually drive key elements of the fear response.
When the link was severed, animals became less wary of open spaces and bright lights.
"The innate response to fear appears to be influenced significantly by signals sent from the stomach to the brain," said Dr Urs Meyer, from Swiss science institute ETH Zurich. Innate and conditioned fears involve different signalling systems in the brain. Closer investigation showed that the loss of signals from the abdomen altered the production of certain neurotransmitter messaging chemicals in the brain.
"We were able to show for the first time that the selective interruption of the signal path from the stomach to the brain changed complex behavioural patterns," Dr Meyer said. Scientists believe that the work might have important implications for treating people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.