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The Outer Brain: Ten Amazing Ways the Skin and Brain Connect - One

How does the human skin microbiome influence our brain and mental status?

Our skin reflects critical changes to the way we think, feel, and perceive.  Both skin cells and brain cells develop from the same kind of embryonic tissue (ectoderm). The skin is the largest organ of the human body and is colonized by beneficial microorganisms. The skin microbiota is composed of millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses.  Key roles in the skin microbiota, in similar fashion to the gut microbiota, is to educate our innate and adaptive immune system, protect against invading pathogens, and break down natural products.

The skin is colonized by a diverse microbiota that has adapted to utilize the nutrients available on the skin.  Although there are myriad environmental perturbations over time, the skin microbiota of a healthy adult remains stable.  Altered microbial states can create or alter skin diseases. 

How do the gut and skin microbiota differ? Microbial communities in the gut stabilize around three years of age, with most strains likely acquired from family members and close contacts.

Initial colonization of the newborn’s skin depends on the way the baby first enters the world. Vaginal delivery allows bacteria colonization with the vagina, and Caesarian section babies acquire skin microorganisms.

Skin microbial species change during puberty due to a rise in hormones that fire up the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. These changes result in marked variations in the bacterial and fungal landscape and predict which skin diseases will be more likely compared to the pre-pubertal period. 

The gut is filled with all kinds of microbiota-friendly juicy meals as compared to the much less diversified and robust diet provided to the skin microbiota. For the skin microbiota, the issue of survival depends on a menu selection of basic proteins and lipids in an acidic, cool, and desiccated environment of sebum, sweat, and the stratum corneum.

Much has been written lately about the gut microbiome and the brain.  We have many unanswered questions.  How does the human skin microbiome influence our brain and mental status?  What is the crosstalk between the immune system, the brain, the mouth, the gut and the skin microbiota?

What about the effect of geographical location (example China vs USA) on the microbiome? If the skin microbiome affects the brain, could different species inherent in different geographic regions affect brain function differently?


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For more information, look at my YouTube series on the Brain-Skin Connections:

The Brain-Skin Connection Series - YouTube

Dr. Robert A. Norman

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