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Playing in the Dirt Could Make you Smarter, Researchers Say

Go ahead, let your kids play in the dirt, it could make them smarter.

After conducting a series of experiments, researchers have found exposure to specific bacteria in the environment could increase learning behavior, ScienceDaily.com reported.

“Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breathe in when they spend time in nature," Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, N.Y., said.

Previous studies on M. vaccae involving mice showed stimulated growth of some neurons in the brain that resulted in increased levels of serotonin and decreased anxiety.

"Since serotonin plays a role in learning, we wondered if live M. vaccae could improve learning in mice," Matthews said.

Matthews and her colleagues discovered they were on the right track.

"We found that mice that were fed live M. vaccae navigated the maze twice as fast and with less demonstrated anxiety behaviors as control mice," she said. “It is interesting to speculate that creating learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where M. vaccae is present may decrease anxiety and improve the ability to learn new tasks."

The findings were presented Monday at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

Click here for more information from the American Society for Microbiology.