Monday, 2 April 2007

Can getting dirty lift your mood?

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Just in time for spring gardening comes this headline -- a recent study found that the bacteria Mycobacterium accae, commonly found in soil, increased serotonin levels in the brain of mice. A lack of serotonin is thought to cause depression in humans. Researchers became interested in the bacteria after cancer patients being treated with it began unexpectedly reporting lifted moods and better quality of life.

The study was small, but researchers hope to look into the connection between the bacteria, healthy immune systems, and depression to find out if there would be benefit from developing treatment options from this or other kinds of bacteria. Gardeners already know that digging in the dirt and soaking up the springtime sunshine make them feel happy and rejuvenated, but as Dr. Chris Lowry -- lead author of this study -- says, "They (these studies) leave us wondering if we all shouldn't be spending more time playing in the dirt."

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