Nature Reviews Microbiology 10, 735-742 (November 2012) | doi:10.1038/nrmicro2876

The interplay between the intestinal microbiota and the brain

Stephen M. Collins1, Michael Surette1 & Premysl Bercik1  About the authors


The intestinal microbiota consists of a vast bacterial community that resides primarily in the lower gut and lives in a symbiotic relationship with the host. A bidirectional neurohumoral communication system, known as the gut–brain axis, integrates the host gut and brain activities. Here, we describe the recent advances in our understanding of how the intestinal microbiota communicates with the brain via this axis to influence brain development and behaviour. We also review how this extended communication system might influence a broad spectrum of diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome, psychiatric disorders and demyelinating conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Author affiliations

  1. Stephen M. Collins, Michael Surette and Premysl Bercik are at the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton L8N 3Z5, Ontario, Canada.

Correspondence to: Stephen M. Collins1 Email:

Published online 24 September 2012