Exploring associations between the gut microbiota and full-scale intelligence in preschool children

Neurosci Lett. 2023 Jul 27:810:137357. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2023.137357. Epub 2023 Jun 22.


The relationship between the gut microbiota and neurocognitive outcomes is becoming increasingly recognized; however, findings in humans are inconsistent. In addition, few studies have investigated the gut microbial metabolites that may mediate this relationship. The objective of this study was to investigate associations between full-scale intelligence (FSIQ) and the composition of the gut microbiota and metabolome in preschool children. Stool samples were collected from a community sample of 245 typically developing children (3-5 years) from the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) cohort. The faecal microbiome was assessed using 16S rRNA sequencing and the metabolome using LC-MS/MS. FSIQ and scores on the Verbal Comprehension, Visual Spatial, Working Memory indices of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-IV were used to assess neurocognition. Associations between the gut microbiota and FSIQ were determined using Pearson and Spearman correlations, which were corrected for multiple testing and relevant covariates. Verbal Comprehension correlated negatively with both Shannon alpha diversity (r = -0.14, p = 0.032) and the caffeine-derived metabolite paraxanthine (r = -0.22, p < 0.001). No other significant correlations were observed. Overall, the weak to modest correlations between Verbal Comprehension with alpha diversity and paraxanthine provide limited evidence of an association between the gut microbiota and neurocognitive outcomes in typically developing preschool children.

Keywords: Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) Study; Caffeine; Child; Full-Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ); Gut Microbiota; Metabolome; Preschool.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S