There exists a bidirectional communication system between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. Increasing evidence shows that gut microbiota can play a critical role in this communication; thus, the concept of a gut microbiota and brain axis is emerging. Here, we review recent findings in the relationship between intestinal microbes and brain function, such as anxiety, depression, stress, autism, learning, and memory. We highlight the advances in modulating brain development and behavior by probiotics, prebiotics, and diet through the gut microbiota-brain axis. A variety of mechanisms including immune, neural, and metabolic pathways may be involved in modulation of the gut microbiota-brain axis. We also discuss some future challenges. A deeper understanding of the relationship between the gut bacteria and their hosts is implicated in developing microbial-based therapeutic strategies for brain disorders.
Keywords: brain function; diet; gut microbiota; prebiotics; probiotics.