The Contribution of Gut Microbiota–Brain Axis in the Development of Brain Disorders

Jessica Maiuolo, Micaela Gliozzi, Vincenzo Musolino, Cristina Carresi, Federica Scarano, Saverio Nucera, Miriam Scicchitano, Francesca Oppedisano, Francesca Bosco, Stefano Ruga, Maria Caterina Zito, Roberta Macri, Ernesto Palma, Carolina Muscoli, Vincenzo Mollace

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Different bacterial families colonize most mucosal tissues in the human organism such as the skin, mouth, vagina, respiratory, and gastrointestinal districts. In particular, the mammalian intestine hosts a microbial community of between 1,000 and 1,500 bacterial species, collectively called “microbiota.” Co-metabolism between the microbiota and the host system is generated and the symbiotic relationship is mutually beneficial. The balance that is achieved between the microbiota and the host organism is fundamental to the organization of the immune system. Scientific studies have highlighted a direct correlation between the intestinal microbiota and the brain, establishing the existence of the gut microbiota–brain axis. Based on this theory, the microbiota acts on the development, physiology, and cognitive functions of the brain, although the mechanisms involved have not yet been fully interpreted. Similarly, a close relationship between alteration of the intestinal microbiota and the onset of several neurological pathologies has been highlighted. This review aims to point out current knowledge as can be found in literature regarding the connection between intestinal dysbiosis and the onset of particular neurological pathologies such as anxiety and depression, autism spectrum disorder, and multiple sclerosis. These disorders have always been considered to be a consequence of neuronal alteration, but in this review, we hypothesize that these alterations may be non-neuronal in origin, and consider the idea that the composition of the microbiota could be directly involved. In this direction, the following two key points will be highlighted: (1) the direct cross-talk that comes about between neurons and gut microbiota, and (2) the degree of impact of the microbiota on the brain. Could we consider the microbiota a valuable target for reducing or modulating the incidence of certain neurological diseases?

Original languageEnglish
Article number616883
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Mar 23 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • anxiety and depression
  • autistic spectrum disorders
  • enteric nervous system
  • gut microbiota
  • gut microbiota-brain axis
  • multiple sclerosis
  • neurological disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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