Targeting the gut microbiota to influence brain development and function in early life

Shugui Wang, Louise Harvey, Rocio Martin, Eline M. van der Beek, Jan Knol, John F. Cryan, Ingrid B. Renes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In the first 2–3 years of life, the gut microbiota of infants quickly becomes diverse and rich. Disruptions in the evolving gut microbiota during this critical developmental period can impact brain development. Communication between the microbiota, gut and brain is driven by hormonal and neural regulation, as well as immune and metabolic pathways, however, our understanding of how the parallel developments that may underlie this communication are limited. In this paper, we review the known associations between the gut microbiota and brain development and brain function in early life, speculate on the potential mechanisms involved in this complex relationship and describe how nutritional intervention can further modulate the microbiota and, ultimately, brain development and function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-201
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Brain development
  • Early life
  • Microbiota
  • Nutrition
  • Pathways
  • Prebiotics
  • Synbiotics

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