In childhood, cognitive capacities are essential for learning new skills and participating in formal education. One of the factors that potentially facilitate the development of a child’s cognitive capacities is the bacteria in the intestines. Intestinal bacteria have a central role in our health, but may also modulate brain development and functioning.
Studies in humans have shown that consuming beneficial bacteria (probiotics) can reduce stress, improve health and mood, and potentially impact cognition. However, the development of the intestinal bacteria in relation to child cognitive development is an unexplored area to date.
Within the Jacobs Foundation TRECC program in Ivory Coast we will carry out a probiotic study in 6-year-old’s: ARC (Abidjan: Recherche sur la Cognition). The aim was to determine whether this probiotic supplement was linked to better cognitive functioning with the ultimate goal of improving children’s basic conditions for learning by achieving healthy brain development in a relatively easy and affordable manner. In this study, we completed baseline and outcome cognitive measures in more than 260 children, some of whom had the probiotic intervention and others who did not. We also collected baseline and outcome fecal samples, as well as outcome saliva samples. We intend to examine probiotic effects on basic cognitive abilities like memory and attention, as well as physical effects on stress and the incidence of parasites in the children. Data collection wrapped up in early June and we hope to present our initial results as early as November.