The interaction between the microbiome of the gut and the function of the brain is a fascinating and novel view on mental health and brain function with vast applications in human treatment. This is especially evident in the Buffington et al 2016 paper where the team investigated the effect of a high fat maternal diet on offspring health, both socially and biologically. Namely, the significant differences in social behaviors of high fat diet offspring just from consuming the feces of healthy diet offspring are astounding. Stool transplants have been used in recent years largely for diseases of the gut, but the possibility of using the procedure as a mental health treatment is astounding, especially considering that the team was able to specify the particular strain of bacteria that could induce such behavioral changes not just in high fat diet offspring, but even in mice that were without gut biome to begin with. Not to mention, the downstream effects on long-term potentiation make this a good candidate for study with regard to learning disabilities as they tie into the autism spectrum being focused on in the study.
This idea of mentally protective bacteria is carried in Reber et al. 2016 as well, albeit focusing on a different strain of bacteria, but they too seem to recognize the possibility of an inoculation of bacteria to fight against mental health disorders brought upon by environmental factors. As Reber et al. note, inflammatory diseases are increasing in urban settings possibly due to a lack of exposure to soil-based bacteria, and as Buffington et al. found, offspring of a mother that consumed high fat or generally unhealthy food during pregnancy are at higher risk for social and neurological deficits. These two issues are extremely prevalent for impoverished people living in urban areas as they are often not exposed to healthy natural environments and nutritious food is often not as accessible as cheaper, high fat foods. While those two problems must be focused on as well, the idea of vaccinating against learning disabilities and general gut disorders using bacteria or microorganisms is beneficial on a number of levels and may be a promising path to investigate.