The microbiota is increasingly recognized for its ability to influence the development and function of the nervous system and several complex host behaviors. In this review, we discuss emerging roles for the gut microbiota in modulating host social and communicative behavior, stressor-induced behavior, and performance in learning and memory tasks. We summarize effects of the microbiota on host neurophysiology, including brain microstructure, gene expression, and neurochemical metabolism across regions of the amygdala, hippocampus, frontal cortex, and hypothalamus. We further assess evidence linking dysbiosis of the gut microbiota to neurobehavioral diseases, such as autism spectrum disorder and major depression, drawing upon findings from animal models and human trials. Finally, based on increasing associations between the microbiota, neurophysiology, and behavior, we consider whether investigating mechanisms underlying the microbiota-gut-brain axis could lead to novel approaches for treating particular neurological conditions.
Keywords: anxiety; autism; depression; gut-brain axis; microbiota; neurodevelopment.