The mind and the body are not only connected, but are a single entity that rely on each other (Dreher, 2003). Both the mind and the body must be in peak condition in order to optimize learning outcomes. The scientific community must destigmatize the mind-body connection with further research and begin separating facts from pop culture fiction. Since knowledge is the lifeblood of the academic community, it seems pertinent to find how to optimize students' circumstances to encourage the best opportunity for learning potential. There are many factors that influence a person's ability to learn, such as health, stress and pain.
There is a well-researched history of how the body can affect memory, learning and concentration. According to a study done by Barbara Sherwin, low estrogen levels caused by hysterectomies are associated with memory loss while estrogen replacement therapy improved verbal memory and other cognitive functions (as cited by Carpenter, 2001) while high levels of oxytocin, which are present during pregnancy and lactation, are associated with forgetfulness (Heinrichs, Meinlschmidt, Wippich, Ehlert, & Hellhammer, 2004), giving validity to the term “pregnancy brain”. Elevated levels of cortisol are also known to cause memory loss and some cognitive impairment (Washington School University of Medicine, 1999).
In stark contrast, the study of gut bacteria is still in its infancy, but is proving to be important in understanding many health issues that were not considered to be related in the past. The digestive tract is often referred to as the “second brain” because of its influence on behavior (Carpenter, 2012). According to one study, eating yogurt can affect brain connectivity and even change the brain's structure (Tillisch et al., 2013). When Lactobacillus thrive in the digestive tract of mice, they become bolder and exhibit fewer signs of anxiety and depression (Carpenter, 2012). Digestive disorders often go hand-in-hand with depression and anxiety (Rodriguez, 2013). Until recently, the reason was unknown.
An experiment performed on mice, by Bercik and his colleagues, showed that after 28 days of treatment on Lactobacillus rhamnosus, the mice were more adventurous and less likely to give up when faced with stressors than mice that had not been given any of the bacteria (as cited by Carpenter, 2012). The current theory in place is that bacteria communicates through the immune system and the vagus nerve (Carpenter, 2012).
Researchers in Japan found that germ-free mice that were exposed to stress had an exaggerated response and had elevated levels of corticosterone and adrenocorticotrophin, which are the equivalents of corisol and adrenaline in humans. When the mice were exposed to beneficial gut flora before weaning during infancy, their hormone levels returned to normal and there was an increase in the number of receptors in some regions of the brain that decreases neural activity and controls anxiety (Carpenter,...