Outdoor Bacteria Can Make You Smarter, and Happier

photo kid dirt camping scientist

Getting some outdoor time is not only good for the soul, it's probably good for the mind. Research from The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, suggests that exposure to a natural soil bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae can increase learning behavior. Another reason to enjoy, and protect, the great outdoors. And a potential reason to eat a little dirt here and there.The bacteria studied is already believed to have antidepressant qualities. Which is probably another reason why sunshine and a cool breeze can lift your spirits. This Mycobacterium vaccae is likely ingested or breathed in by people when they spend time in nature, according to Dorothy Matthews, who conducted the research with Susan Jenks.

If you see a mouse or two the next time you're outside, tell them thanks for the information.

For this study, mice had to navigate a maze. Mice that were fed the live "brain bacteria" navigated the maze twice as fast "and with less demonstrated anxiety behaviors" than control mice, the researchers said. After a few weeks, the effects of the bacteria wore off, suggesting that regular visits to the outdoors are wise.

Think about it: A real mouse has taught us to spend less time with a computer mouse. That's deep.

The research was presented earlier this month at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

The picture above is of my daughter, getting smarter by the minute.

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