I found this week's papers to be the most interesting ones we have read this entire semester. They discuss how critical microorganisms are in immunity, the gut, and stress-related behaviors (Reber et al., 2016), as well as in social behaviors (Buffington et al., 2016). I am currently taking a Microbiology course and obviously I was aware of how important microbes are throughout our human body and lifestyle, but I was not aware they were involved to this extent, how strongly they can affect our social lives in addition to our physical being. One of, if not the most important, aspect of these papers is how much this research can help humans in the clinical setting suffering from not only colon disorders like colitis, but also psychiatric diseases like PTSD and other fear/anxiety illnesses. Since microorganisms are found in all areas of the body, and since the brain has pathways projecting to all areas of the body, I wonder how many other diseases in different areas of the body can be treated by probiotics and how far researchers are in this.
Both papers left me with a lot of questions regarding how exactly the brain modulates immunity and the gut. That being said, it appears to be extremely complex and thus would have made these papers even longer than they already are, I would like to see a whole nother paper (or few) discussing these processes. Overall, I thought both of them had a very well-rounded approach in testing their hypotheses, although they left me wondering why Reber et al. did not use any control groups that included live Mycobacterium vaccae (they just used heat-killed preparations). They mentioned that heat-killed is involved in dendritic function and anti-inflammatory secretions, but they did not mention any disadvantages (or advantages) of using live preparations.