The paper by Desbonnet and colleagues* (open-access) asks some intriguing questions about how our gut bacteria - those trillions of passengers which we all carry in our deepest, darkest recesses - might have the propensity to affect the behavioural development of a mouse specifically focused on social development.
Whilst to some people this might not sound like a particularly exciting finding, to others such a suggestion might potentially signal the start of a whole new way of looking at how our (human) physiology might actually impact on our psychological development. Move over Piaget et al and make way for something rather more complex. Even possibly a new -omic..... psychobacteriomics (you heard here first folks).
OK let's not get ahead of ourselves here. This was only a small study of germ-free (GF) and conventionally colonised (with bacteria) mice measuring their mouse-like behaviours across various 'sociability tests'. Mice are mice not humans and this finding needs replication.
That being said I'm interested. I'm interested whether these findings could be crossed over to other animals and even humans. I'm interested whether different bacteria might be linked to various aspects of social development. I'm interested whether this means that taking lots of antimicrobials during early infancy could affect social development. Indeed, I'm interested if this might have implications for the arguments: breast vs. bottle, c-section vs. natural birth, even whether supplementation with probiotics during critical stages of development might show some relationship to a person social development bearing in mind I'm not making any recommendations by the way.
And then there's conditions like autism to consider...
* Desbonnet L. et al. Microbiota is essential for social development in the mouse. Molecular Psychiatry. May 2013.