The discovery of the size and complexity of the human microbiome has resulted in an ongoing reevaluation of many concepts of health and disease, including diseases affecting the CNS. A growing body of preclinical literature has demonstrated bidirectional signaling between the brain and the gut microbiome, involving multiple neurocrine and endocrine signaling mechanisms. While psychological and physical stressors can affect the composition and metabolic activity of the gut microbiota, experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behavior and related brain systems. These findings have resulted in speculation that alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Ongoing large-scale population-based studies of the gut microbiome and brain imaging studies looking at the effect of gut microbiome modulation on brain responses to emotion-related stimuli are seeking to validate these speculations. This article is a summary of emerging topics covered in a symposium and is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the subject.
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