Bacterial colonisation of the gut plays a major role in postnatal development and maturation of key systems that have the capacity to influence central nervous system (CNS) programming and signaling, including the immune and endocrine systems. Individually, these systems have been implicated in the neuropathology of many CNS disorders and collectively they form an important bidirectional pathway of communication between the microbiota and the brain in health and disease. Regulation of the microbiome-brain-gut axis is essential for maintaining homeostasis, including that of the CNS. Moreover, there is now expanding evidence for the view that commensal organisms within the gut play a role in early programming and later responsivity of the stress system. Research has focused on how the microbiota communicates with the CNS and thereby influences brain function. The routes of this communication are not fully elucidated but include neural, humoral, immune and metabolic pathways. This view is underpinned by studies in germ-free animals and in animals exposed to pathogenic bacterial infections, probiotic agents or antibiotics which indicate a role for the gut microbiota in the regulation of mood, cognition, pain and obesity. Thus, the concept of a microbiome-brain-gut axis is emerging which suggests that modulation of the gut microflora may be a tractable strategy for developing novel therapeutics for complex stress-related CNS disorders where there is a huge unmet medical need.