Children's gut microbiome linked with brain development, function: study

Research shows specific gut microbial species, such as Alistipes obesi and Blautia wexlerae, are associated with higher cognitive functions

Representational image (photo: IANS)
Representational image (photo: IANS)


Differences in the gut microbiome is associated with overall cognitive function and brain structure in healthy children, according to a study.

Emerging evidence implicates the gut microbiome in cognitive outcomes and neurodevelopmental disorders, but the influence of gut microbial metabolism on typical neurodevelopment has not been explored in detail.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, investigated the relationship in 381 healthy children. The researchers from Wellesley College, Massachusetts in the US revealed a connection between the gut microbiome and cognitive function in children.

They showed that specific gut microbial species, such as Alistipes obesi and Blautia wexlerae, are associated with higher cognitive functions.

Conversely, species like Ruminococcus gnavus are more prevalent in children with lower cognitive scores.

The study emphasises the role of microbial genes, particularly those involved in the metabolism of neuroactive compounds like short-chain fatty acids, in influencing cognitive abilities, said corresponding author Vanja Klepac-Ceraj from the college.

Advanced machine learning models demonstrated the capability of gut microbial profiles to predict variations in brain structure and cognitive performance, highlighting the potential for early detection and intervention strategies in neurodevelopment.

This study represents an important first step in the understanding of the relationship between the gut biome and cognitive function in children.

“This research is the first to examine the gut-brain-microbiome axis in normal neurocognitive development among healthy children. The integration of multivariable linear and machine learning models to analyse the complex relationship between gut microbiome profiles and neurodevelopment is innovative,” Klepac-Ceraj said.

These models not only established the association of gut microbiota with cognitive function but also predicted future cognitive performance based on early-life microbial profiles.

The findings pave the way for developing biomarkers for neurocognition and brain development. This research could lead to early detection of developmental issues and interventions, potentially mitigating long-term cognitive challenges. It highlights the importance of gut health in early childhood, suggesting dietary and lifestyle considerations for parents and health care providers, the researchers said.

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