November 25, 2019

David Arti
Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation
Joan and Sanford L. Weill Department of Medicine
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Weill Cornell Medicine
Cornell University
New York, NY

Dear Dr. Artis,

I was delighted to read Coco Chu et al. “The Microbiota Regulate Neuronal Function and Fear Extinction learning” Nature vol. 574 no. 7779 October 24, 2019 page 543.  If I read correctly, mice without normal bowel flora lose the ability to learn that a warning such as a buzzer before an electric shock is no longer necessarily active.

I have for many years been interested in the sad health stories of war veterans.  I the early hears it was thought that something like battle fatigue would only last a couple of months in a normal environment.  None the less, when it became apparent that the danger of returning from war was about as great as that of going (largely of course due to American fire power), I started to make it a crusade to let the world know.  That, of course, is no longer a secret.  But what is new is that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) lasts indefinitely. 

Forgive my enthusiasm, but it looks like you have a lab model for PTSD, and perhaps some day we shall have a pill that contains a very large dose of what the bacteria are giving to the mice, and it will be a pill for PTSD.  And you know something?  I think that there are a lot of people who cannot learn that things they came to believe under emotional pressure are no longer to be believed.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  I look forward to living in the world you may be about to create.

M. Linton Herbert