Dispatches from the IPA World Congress in Athens, Greece

Psychobiotics can feed gut-brain health axis: 'It’s really an exciting frontier,' says professor

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Evidence is building that links the gut microbiome and brain function and ‘psychobiotics’ are at the heart of that, says a leading Irish researcher working in the field for more than five years.

“It’s really an exciting frontier in medicine right now to try and understand the potential of how the gut microbiome can play a role in brain development and behavior and therefore we might be able to develop novel strategies targeting the gut microbiome, what we call psychiobiotics that may be useful in the treatment of certain mental disorders,” said professor John Cryan.

Stress-related disorders like anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome were key study areas along with conditions like autism spectrum disorders, said professor Cryan, chair and head of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at University College Cork in Ireland. 

Probiotic strains like Lactobacillus had the potential to affect the gut-brain axis, although much of the research has been animal-based or in vitro. Cryan acknowledged, "to date there is very little clinical evidence."

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