Gut microbiota

Intestinal bacteria influence brain activity in healthy humans

Emerging evidence indicates that the intestinal microbiota influence brain chemistry, development and behaviour in animals. Tillisch and colleagues now show that ingestion of selected probiotics changes brain connectivity and responses to emotional challenge in healthy humans, paving the way for therapeutic exploitation of the microbiome–brain axis for functional gastrointestinal and primary behavioural disorders.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Intestinal bacteria influence brain activity in healthy humans.


  1. 1

    Tillisch, K. et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology

  2. 2

    Bercik, P. et al. The intestinal microbiota affect central levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor and behavior in mice. Gastroenterology 141, 599–609 (2011).

  3. 3

    Collins, S.M., Surette, M. & Bercik, P. The interplay between the intestinal microbiota and the brain. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 10, 735–742 (2012).

  4. 4

    Cryan, J.F. & Dinan, T. G. Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 13, 701–712 (2012).

  5. 5

    McNulty, N.P. et al. The impact of a consortium of fermented milk strains on the gut microbiome of gnotobiotic mice and monozygotic twins. Sci. Transl. Med. 3, 106ra106 (2011).

  6. 6

    Van Oudenhove, L. et al. Fatty acid-induced gut-brain signaling attenuates neural and behavioral effects of sad emotion in humans. J. Clin. Invest. 121, 3094–3099 (2011).

  7. 7

    Schreiber, J. et al. Neurologic considerations in propionic acidemia. Mol. Genet. Metab. 105, 10–15 (2012).

  8. 8

    Moayyedi, P. et al. The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review. Gut 59, 325–332 (2010).

  9. 9

    Foster, J.A. & McVey Neufeld, K. A. Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends Neurosci.

  10. 10

    Louis, P. Does the human gut microbiota contribute to the etiology of autism spectrum disorders? Dig. Dis. Sci. 57, 1987–1989 (2012).

Download references


The authors are supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and by a grant in aid from the Nestlé Research Center.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephen M. Collins.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors have received a grant for research support from the Nestlé Research Center, Nestlé, Switzerland.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Collins, S., Bercik, P. Intestinal bacteria influence brain activity in healthy humans. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 10, 326–327 (2013).

Download citation

Further reading