Relationship between the gut microbiome and brain function

Nutr Rev. 2018 Jul 1;76(7):481-496. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy009.


It has become increasingly evident in recent years that the gut microbiome and the brain communicate in a bidirectional manner, with each possibly affecting the other's functions. Substantial research has aimed to understand the mechanisms of this interaction and to outline strategies for preventing or treating nervous system-related disturbances. This review explores the evidence demonstrating how the gut microbiome may affect brain function in adults, thereby having an impact on stress, anxiety, depression, and cognition. In vitro, in vivo, and human studies reporting an association between a change in the gut microbiome and functional changes in the brain are highlighted, as are studies outlining the mechanisms by which the brain affects the microbiome and the gastrointestinal tract. Possible modes of action to explain how the gut microbiome and the brain functionally affect each other are proposed. Supplemental probiotics to combat brain-related dysfunction offer a promising approach, provided future research elucidates their mode of action and possible side effects. Further studies are warranted to establish how pre- and probiotic interventions may help to balance brain function in healthy and diseased individuals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / microbiology*
  • Brain / microbiology*
  • Depression / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Stress, Psychological / microbiology*