Towards Psychobiotics: The Microbiome as a Key Regulator of Brain and Behavior
John F. Cryan, Ph.D., is professor and Chair in the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience at University College Cork in Ireland.
There is a growing appreciation of the relationship between gut microbiota and the host in maintaining homeostasis in health and predisposing to disease. Bacterial colonization of the gut plays a major role in postnatal development and maturation of key systems that have the capacity to influence central nervous system (CNS) programming and signaling, including the immune and endocrine systems. Individually, these systems have been implicated in the neuropathology of many CNS disorders and collectively they form an important bidirectional pathway of communication between the microbiota and the brain in health and disease. Over the past 5 years substantial advances have been made in linking changes in microbiota to brain development and even behavior and the concept of a microbiota-gut-brain axis has emerged. In order to explore this relationship, Dr. Cryan’s team conducts studies involving animal models, early-life microbiota manipulations, and probiotic administration in adulthood. Their research has shown that gut microbiota is essential for normal stress, antidepressant, and anxiety responses. In addition, Dr. Cryan’s lab has found that microbiota is essential for social cognition and may play a role in autism-related symptomatology. In this lecture, Dr. Cryan will discuss his work as well as the concept of critical windows of time early in life when the effects of microbiota on brain and behavior appear to be more potent. Manipulation of the microbiota in early life by cesarean delivery, antibiotics, or stress leads to long-lasting effects on brain and behavior. Dr. Cryan will also discuss how specific modulation of the enteric microbiota through diet may be a useful "psychobiotic"-based strategy for both stress-related and neurodevelopmental disorders ranging from depression to autism.