Skip to main content Accessibility help

The contribution of microbiology to neuroscience: More complex than it seems?

  • Elisa Borghi (a1), Aglaia Vignoli (a1) and Armando D'Agostino (a1)


The overblown, somewhat dramatic media interpretation of microbiota-gut-brain literature is highly misleading. This phenomenon is not new to neuroscience, wherein rapidly evolving research fields struggle to translate findings into clinical practice. Advances in microbiology might integrate our understanding of complex biological pathways that should be interpreted within neuropsychiatric symptom dimensions rather than specific disorders.



Hide All
Borghi, E., Borgo, F., Severgnini, M., Savini, M.N., Casiraghi, M.C. & Vignoli, A. (2017) Rett syndrome: A focus on gut microbiota. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 18(2):344. Available at:
Borgo, F., Riva, A., Benetti, A., Casiraghi, M. C., Bertelli, S., Garbossa, S., Anselmetti, S., Scarone, S., Pontiroli, A. E., Morace, G. & Borghi, E. (2017) Microbiota in anorexia nervosa: The triangle between bacterial species, metabolites and psychological tests. PLoS ONE 12(6):e0179739. Available at:
Clarke, G., Cryan, J. F., Dinan, T. G. & Quigley, E. M. (2012) Review article: Probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome – Focus on lactic acid bacteria. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 35(4):403–13.
Cuthbert, B. (2014) The RDoC framework: Facilitating transition from ICD/DSM to dimensional approaches that integrate neuroscience and psychopathology. World Psychiatry 13(1):2835.
D'Argenio, V. (2018) Human microbiome acquisition and bioinformatic challenges in metagenomic studies. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 19(2):383. Available at:
De Angelis, M., Piccolo, M., Vannini, L., Siragusa, S., De Giacomo, A., Serrazzanetti, D. I., Cristofori, F., Guerzoni, M.E., Gobbetti, M. & Francavilla, R. (2013) Fecal microbiota and metabolome of children with autism and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. PLoS ONE 8(10):e76993. Available at:
Firth, J., Stubbs, B., Teasdale, S.B., Ward, P.B., Veronese, N., Shivappa, N., Hebert, J.R., Berk, M., Yung, A.R. & Sarris, J. (2018) Diet as a hot topic in psychiatry: A population-scale study of nutritional intake and inflammatory potential in severe mental illness. World Psychiatry 17(3):365–67.
Illes, J., Moser, M.A., McCormick, J.B., Racine, E., Blakeslee, S., Caplan, A., Hayden, E.C., Ingram, J., Lohwater, T., McKnight, P., Nicholson, C., Phillips, A., Sauvé, K.D., Snell, E. & Weiss, S. (2010) Neurotalk: Improving the communication of neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11(1):6169.
Kang, D. W., Ilhan, Z. E., Isern, N. G., Hoyt, D. W., Howsmon, D. P., Shaffer, M., Lozupone, C. A., Hahn, J., Adams, J. B. & Krajmalnik-Brown, R. (2018) Differences in fecal microbial metabolites and microbiota of children with autism spectrum disorders. Anaerobe 49:121–31.
Kapur, S., Phillips, A. G. & Insel, T. R. (2012) Why has it taken so long for biological psychiatry to develop clinical tests and what to do about it? Molecular Psychiatry 17(12):1174–79.
Kim, S., Kim, H., Yim, Y. S., Ha, S., Atarashi, K., Tan, T. G., Longman, R. S., Honda, K., Littman, D. R., Choi, G. B. & Huh, J. R. (2017b) Maternal gut bacteria promote neurodevelopmental abnormalities in mouse offspring. Nature 549(7673):528–32.
Morita, C., Tsuji, H., Hata, T., Gondo, M., Takakura, S., Kawai, K., Yoshihara, K., Ogata, K., Nomoto, K., Miyazaki, K. & Sudo, N. (2015) Gut dysbiosis in patients with anorexia nervosa. PLoS ONE 10(12):e0145274. Available at:
Reis, D. J., Ilardi, S. S. & Punt, S. E. W. (2018) The anxiolytic effect of probiotics: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the clinical and preclinical literature. PLoS ONE 13(6):e0199041. Available at:
Schwarz, E., Maukonen, J., Hyytiäinen, T., Kieseppä, T., Orešič, M., Sabunciyan, S., Mantere, O., Saarela, M., Yolken, R., Suvisaari, J. (2018) Analysis of microbiota in first episode psychosis identifies preliminary associations with symptom severity and treatment response. Schizophrenia Research 192:398403.
Shen, Y., Xu, J., Li, Z., Huang, Y., Yuan, Y., Wang, J., Zhang, M., Hu, S., Liang, Y. (2018) Analysis of gut microbiota diversity and auxiliary diagnosis as a biomarker in patients with schizophrenia: A cross-sectional study. Schizophrenia Research 197:470–77.
Tillisch, K., Labus, J., Kilpatrick, L., Jiang, Z., Stains, J., Ebrat, B., Guyonnet, D., Legrain-Raspaud, S., Trotin, B., Naliboff, B. & Mayer, E.A. (2013) Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology 144(7):1394–401.

The contribution of microbiology to neuroscience: More complex than it seems?

  • Elisa Borghi (a1), Aglaia Vignoli (a1) and Armando D'Agostino (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.