The Psychic Gut: Do Gut Flora Constitute the Next Psychiatric Treatment?

Author(s): Margalit Izakson and Gil Zalsman

The microbiota consists of a vast bacterial population that resides mainly in the large intestine and lives in a symbiotic relationship with the host. The microbiota has significant physiological functions, including in the protection against pathogens, in maturation and shaping of the immune system, in metabolism and in the tendency towards obesity. The gut flora plays a major role in the bidirectional communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. The gut-brain axis is enabled by signals from the nervous system, hormones and the immune system. This review describes recent research that shows the influence of the microbiota on brain development, behaviour and mood. The possibility that perturbation of the gut bacteria may lead to psychiatric disorders will be discussed as well as the potential of new microbiota-based therapeutic interventions.

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