Can Gut Bacteria Influence Social Development?

Molecular Psychiatry volume 19, pages 146–148 (2014

The microbiota–gut–brain axis is an emerging concept in modern medicine informed by the ability of gut microbiota to alter brain and behaviour.1 Although some clinical studies have revealed altered gut microbiota composition in patients with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism,2, 3 the specific contributions of microbiota in early life to the development and programming of the various facets of social behaviour has not been investigated. Read more…


This study shows for, what is to our knowledge, the first time that microbiota are crucial for the programming and presentation of distinct normal social behaviours, including social motivation and preference for social novelty, while also being important regulators of repetitive behaviours. Given that these facets of behaviour are impaired in neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism10 and with a similar male preponderance, these data may have implications for our understanding of the genesis of neurodevelopmental disorders of altered sociability. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying these social deficits, which may include modulation of immune cell cytokines release, changes in vagal nerve activity and neuroendocrine function, could potentially lead to the emergence of novel and more effective therapies to combat symptoms in the social domain.