Researchers at ETH Zurich have found that our gut instinct could have a major influence on how we react to fear.
The researchers conducted their study on a group of rats, cutting off their afferent nerve, part of the vagus nerve, through which the brain receives signals from the stomach. This allowed the brains of the rats to still control the processes in the stomach but the brains no longer received signals from the stomach.
The researchers found that the rats were less afraid of bright lights and open spaces if their vagus nerve was cut, compared to a control group that had their vagus nerve intact. The researchers analyzed the brains of the rats and found that the loss of signals from the stomach influenced the production of neurotransmitters in the brain.
"The innate response to fear appears to be influenced significantly by signals sent from the stomach to the brain. We were able to show for the first time that the selective interruption of the signal path from the stomach to the brain changed complex behavioral patterns. This has traditionally been attributed to the brain alone", lead researcher Urs Meyer said.