Crane School Blog: Focus on Learning

Featuring articles written by Crane Staffulty

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Picking fruit from Crane's salad bar at lunch.
Jennifer Bochsler

Want to study better? Take care of your belly by eating, sleeping, and being merry. That’s what the research suggests, anyway.

The gut-brain connection is far from new, but in neuroscience it’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance. One can’t walk down a grocery store aisle without seeing prebiotics and probiotics for sale, all advertising their positive impact on our gut, cognition, and mood. And it’s true: healthy guts lead to healthy brains...

Want to study better? Take care of your belly by eating, sleeping, and being merry. That’s what the research suggests, anyway.

The gut-brain connection is far from new, but in neuroscience it’s experiencing a bit of a renaissance. One can’t walk down a grocery store aisle without seeing prebiotics and probiotics for sale, all advertising their positive impact on our gut, cognition, and mood. And it’s true: healthy guts lead to healthy brains, giving us the best chance at learning.

And the brain that needs the most attention may just be the brain in our bellies.

Wait, do we have two brains now? Many scientists say yes. New research is exploding on the gut’s “brain,” known as the enteric nervous system. This mesh-like neuronal network lines our digestive track and sends signals up to the brain, as well as manufactures critical hormonal components for our cognition and mood. For example, previous science taught that our brain controlled our serotonin levels, deemed essential for sleep, appetite, mood, and ability to navigate stress. Now it’s known that 95 percent of serotonin is manufactured in the gut!

Our stomachs are powerful influences on learning, precisely because our second brain, the gut, is capable of cognitive rebellion. Inside the digestive track, the gut is home to more than 100 trillion microorganisms that make up our microbiome. When our microbiome is healthy, our brains are clearer and our memory is tighter. When a microbiome is imbalanced, it revolts--our neurotransmitters can’t function optimally along the gut-brain axis, leaving both of our brains in a fog. Our memory becomes worse, while our body’s cortisol and stress levels increase. The result?  All sorts of ailments that decelerate our body and mind.  

How do we keep our guts healthy? We eat fiber-rich food and consume probiotic-rich treats like yogurt. We laugh, sleep, and relax. We breathe deeply and unhinge the muscles in our stomachs. From there, we rest. This is the basis of learning from the belly up. 

Jen Bochsler 
Upper School Learning Specialist 

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