Supplementation of dietary non-digestible oligosaccharides from birth onwards improve social and reduce anxiety-like behaviour in male BALB/c mice

Nutr Neurosci. 2020 Nov;23(11):896-910. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1576362. Epub 2019 Mar 14.


Objective: The intestinal microbiota is acknowledged to be essential in brain development and behaviour. Their composition can be modulated by prebiotics such as short-chain galacto-oligosaccharides (scGOS) and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharide (lcFOS). Several studies reported potential health benefit of prebiotics on behaviour. As the prebiotic mixture of scGOS and lcFOS is included in infant formula, we investigated the effects of dietary supplementation with this specific mixture from the day of birth onwards on behaviour and intestinal microbiota development in mice. Method: Healthy male BALB/cByJ mice received, from day of birth, a dietary supplement with or without 3% scGOS:lcFOS (9:1). Behavioural tests were performed pre-weaning, in adolescence, early adulthood and adulthood. We assessed faecal microbiota compositions over time, caecal short-chain fatty acids as well as brain mRNA expression of Htr1a, Htr1b and Tph2 and monoamine levels. Results: Compared to control fed mice, scGOS:lcFOS fed mice showed reduced anxiety-like and repetitive behaviour over time and improved social behaviour in adulthood. The serotonergic system in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and somatosensory cortex (SSC) was affected by the scGOS:lcFOS. In the PFC, mRNA expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) was enhanced in scGOS:lcFOS fed mice. Although the bacterial diversity of the intestinal microbiota was unaffected by the scGOS:lcFOS diet, microbiota composition differed between the scGOS:lcFOS and the control fed mice over time. Moreover, an increased saccharolytic and decreased proteolytic fermentation activity were observed in caecum content. Discussion: Supplementing the diet with scGOS:lcFOS from the day of birth is associated with reduced anxiety-like and improved social behaviour during the developmental period and later in life, and modulates the composition and activity of the intestinal microbiota in healthy male BALB/c mice. These data provide further evidence of the potential impact of scGOS:lcFOS on behaviour at several developmental stages throughout life and strengthen the insights in the interplay between the developing intestine and brain.

Keywords: Behaviour; SCFA; dietary supplementation from birth; early life; fructo-oligosaccharide; galacto-oligosaccharide; healthy mice; intestinal microbiota; prebiotics; serotonergic system.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / microbiology*
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Oligosaccharides / administration & dosage*
  • Prebiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Vocalization, Animal


  • Biogenic Monoamines
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Prebiotics