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. Results of the project indicated that children improved in all cognitive measures over one semester. We did not find any effects of the probiotic on cognition (possibly due to interrupted administration due to political unrest in the country), but did find that the children who consumed the probiotic product had lower cortisol at the end of the study than children who consumed the placebo product or no product.
The following people from our lab are working in this study: Bonnie Brett, Carolina de Weerth
For the ARC project, we are also collaborating with the local Institut Pasteur in Cote D’Ivoire and with the Yoba for Life Foundation.
Our two lead research assistants on the project are:
Hello; my name is Mr KOKO Koffi Bruno and I am a nutritionist specialist with a focus on infant nutrition. My goal is to contribute effectively to the fight against child malnutrition. I accomplish this through lectures on the benefits of breastfeeding and promoting diets formulated specifically for breastfeeding mothers and for dietary diversification in infants and school-aged children. I am currently working on my PhD at Félix Houphouët-Boigny University in Abidjan. I worked on the ARC project as the health outcome specialist and look forward to continuing my research career in nutrition and child outcomes.
My name is DOUMBIA Habib and my current research focuses on determining and demonstrating the potential pharmocological value of 3 African pharmacopoeia plants by highlighting their possible psychotropic effects through ethological and neuropsychological tests in laboratory rats. In addition, I was the lead project coordinator for the ARC project in Abidjan. I received my Masters in nutrition, health and behavior with a focus on neuroscience at Félix Houphouët-Boigny University in Abidjan and am currently working on my PhD in the same field.