Abstract | April 5, 2022

THE IMPACT OF GUT MICROBIOTA ON COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

Presenting Author: Tara May, Masters of Science, Medical Student, 2nd Year, Clinical Neuroscience Research Center, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA

Coauthors: Timothy E. Gressett, MS, Tulane University School of Medicine,Clinical Neuroscience Research Center, Department of Neurosurgery, Tulane School of Medicine, Neuroscience Program, Brain Institute, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA; Rebecca J. Solch, PhD,Tulane Center for Clinical Neurosciences, Department of Neurology, Tulane School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA; Demetrius M. Maraganore, MD, Tulane Center for Clinical Neurosciences, Department of Neurology, Tulane School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA; Gregory J. Bix, MD, PhD, Tulane University School of Medicine, Clinical Neuroscience Research Center, Department of Neurosurgery, Tulane School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA

Learning Objectives

  1. Demonstrate the importance of the "critical period" for the impact of gut microbiota on cognitive development;
  2. Describe the areas of cognitive development that are impacted by gut microbiota;
  3. Compare and contrast the effects of gut microbiota on germ-free vs. antibiotic treated mice.

Cognitive development is the study of how the brain develops as an individual ages. Specifically, the study of cognitive development focuses on the areas of emotional, structural, and motor development. Current literature examining cognitive development focus on how these factors are influenced by environment and genetics, however emerging evidence implicates gut microbiota as an increasingly influential determinant to proper cognitive function. Here we review the literature and evaluate the latest research on cognitive development and gut microbiota. Relevant studies in our discussion include both animal models on germ free and antibiotic-treated mice to compare the relevance of these models of microbiota elimination to human studies, as well as what is currently known in human infant models.

We report that gut microbiota composition may influence depression, anxiety, motor skills, fear behaviors, synaptogenesis, and communication. Additionally, there may be a critical period in which cognitive development and function is most influenced by the gut microbiota and how treatment with antibiotics for common childhood infections may alteration gut microbiota thus affecting cognitive development. Lastly, we examined how the effects of gut bacteria on the cognitive development of the fetus within the prenatal period. Our findings summarize the evidence on the use of antibiotics during development, as well as highlight the importance of cultivating healthy gut microbiota during the prenatal and infancy periods in order to positively influence cognition.

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