Experimental manipulation of the gut microbiome was found to modify emotional and cognitive behavior, neurotransmitter expression and brain function in rodents, but corresponding human data remain scarce. The present double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised study aimed at investigating the effects of 4 weeks' probiotic administration on behavior, brain function and gut microbial composition in healthy volunteers. Forty-five healthy participants divided equally into three groups (probiotic, placebo and no intervention) underwent functional MRI (emotional decision-making and emotional recognition memory tasks). In addition, stool samples were collected to investigate the gut microbial composition. Probiotic administration for 4 weeks was associated with changes in brain activation patterns in response to emotional memory and emotional decision-making tasks, which were also accompanied by subtle shifts in gut microbiome profile. Microbiome composition mirrored self-reported behavioral measures and memory performance. This is the first study reporting a distinct influence of probiotic administration at behavioral, neural, and microbiome levels at the same time in healthy volunteers. The findings provide a basis for future investigations into the role of the gut microbiota and potential therapeutic application of probiotics.
Keywords: Emotional decision; behavior; fMRI; microbiome; probiotics; recognition, memory; stool.