The Effects of Probiotics and Prebiotics on Mental Disorders: A Review on Depression, Anxiety, Alzheimer, and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2020;21(7):555-565. doi: 10.2174/1389201021666200107113812.


Background: Probiotics and their nutrient sources (prebiotics) have been shown to have positive effects on different organs of the host. The idea of their potential benefits on Central Nervous Systems (CNS) and the incidence of Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer, Depression, Autism, and other mental disorders has proposed a new category of medicines called "psychobiotic" which is hoped to be of low-side effect anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and anti-anxiety constitutes.

Objective: In the current review, we present valuable insights into the complicated interactions between the GI microbiota (especially in the colon), brain, immune and central nervous systems and provide a summary of the main findings of the effects of pro- and prebiotics on important mental disorders from the potential mechanisms of action to their application in clinical practice.

Methods: Google Scholar, Pub Med, Scopus, and Science Direct databases were searched using following key words: "probiotics", "prebiotics", "mental disorders", "psychological disorders", "depression", "anxiety", "stress", "Alzheimer" and "autism spectrum". The full text of potentially eligible studies was retrieved and assessed in detail by the reviewers. Data were extracted and then summarized from the selected papers.

Results: The results of the provided evidence suggest that probiotic and prebiotics might improve mental function via several mechanisms. The beneficial effects of their application in Depression, Anxiety, Alzheimer and autism spectrum diseases have also been supported in clinical studies.

Conclusion: Pro and prebiotics can improve mental health and psychological function and can be offered as new medicines for common mental disorders, however, more clinical studies are necessary to conduct regarding the clinical significance of the effects and their bioequivalence or superiority against current treatments.

Keywords: Alzheimer; Probiotic; anxiety; autism; depression; mental disorder; prebiotic..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / microbiology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Anxiety / microbiology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / microbiology
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Microbiota / drug effects
  • Prebiotics*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Prebiotics