Purpose: Experimental investigations in rodents have contributed significantly to our current understanding of the potential importance of the gut microbiome and brain interactions for neurotransmitter expression, neurodevelopment, and behaviour. However, clinical evidence to support such interactions is still scarce. The present study used a double-blind, randomized, pre- and post-intervention assessment design to investigate the effects of a 4-week multi-strain probiotic administration on whole-brain functional and structural connectivity in healthy volunteers.
Methods: Forty-five healthy volunteers were recruited for this study and were divided equally into three groups (PRP: probiotic, PLP: placebo, and CON: control). All the participants underwent resting-state functional MRI and diffusion MRI brain scans twice during the course of study, at the beginning (time point 1) and after 4 weeks (time point 2). MRI data were acquired using a 3T whole-body MR system (Magnetom Skyra, Siemens, Germany).
Results: Functional connectivity (FC) changes were observed in the default mode network (DMN), salience network (SN), and middle and superior frontal gyrus network (MFGN) in the PRP group as compared to the PLP and CON groups. PRP group showed a significant decrease in FC in MFGN (in frontal pole and frontal medial cortex) and in DMN (in frontal lobe) as compared to CON and PLP groups, respectively. Further, significant increase in FC in SN (in cingulate gyrus and precuneus cortex) was also observed in PRP group as compared to CON group. The significance threshold was set to p < 0.05 FWE corrected. No significant structural differences were observed between the three groups.
Conclusions: This work provides new insights into the role of a multi-strain probiotic administration in modulating the behaviour, which is reflected as changes in the FC in healthy volunteers. This study motivates future investigations into the role of probiotics in context of major depression and stress disorders.
Keywords: Diffusion; Gut–brain axis; MRI; Probiotics; Resting-state; Salience.