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Prebiotics may modify brain chemistry through microbiota modulation: Rat study

By Nathan Gray+

27-Jan-2014
Last updated on 27-Jan-2014 at 13:23 GMT2014-01-27T13:23:36Z

Prebiotics may modify brain chemistry through microbiota modulation: Rat study

The modification of gut microbiota by prebiotics may also lead to alterations in brain chemistry, according to new dat that suggests a potential role for prebiotic compounds in neuropsychiatric illness.

The pre-clinical study from researchers at prebiotic manufacturer Clasado and the University of Oxford noted that previous studies have suggested that the gut microbiota has a direct effect on brain chemistry - with an absence of gut bacteria linked to reductions in the central expression of brain derived neurotropic factor, (BDNF), and N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) subunits.

Writing in Neurochemistry International the team tested whether prebiotic compounds are able to modify the central expression BDNF, and NMDAR in the same way that oral probiotics have been previously demonstrated to.

The findings from the study indicate a 'proof of principle' that prebiotic compounds can indeed modify brain chemistry in these ways, said the team - led by Dr Phil Burnet from the University of Oxford.

“There is a growing body of evidence linking the gut to various aspects of brain health,” commented Geoff Collins of Clasado. “We are hopeful that this new research, the first of its kind using a prebiotic, will pave the way for further discoveries and potential brain associated health applications for this technology.”

“Our results have also provided the basis for further research in humans," said Burnet, who added that the new study provides valuable insights "into the complex interactions between the gut and brain.”

He noted that human clinical trials have recently been conducted by Clasado and the University of Oxford - and the results of this study are due to be published in the coming months.

Study details

Burnet and his team fed rats either FOS (fructo-oligosaccahride) or second generation GOS (galacto-oligosaccharide) prebiotics (Bimuno, Clasado).

In both cases significant effects on the neuronal biochemistry of the rats were demonstrated, they revealed - noting that the prebiotics increased hippocampal BDNF and NR1 subunit expression relative to controls.

Intake of GOS was also found to increase hippocampal NR2A subunits, and frontal cortex NR1 and d-serine, however the prebiotics did not alter glutamate, glutamine, l-serine, l-alanine or d-alanine concentrations in the brain.

"Our results have provided the necessary 'proof-of-principle' for the central actions of prebiotic consumption," wrote the team. "The increase of hippocampal BDNF after prebiotic intake is consistent with a probiotic effect, and may have been a direct consequence of elevated gut Bifidobacteria numbers."

"Importantly, our study has provided sufficient cause to warrant further exploration into the utility of prebiotics in therapies of neuropsychiatric illness and which, by virtue of their ability to proliferate gut bacteria and stimulate neuroendocrine (and other) responses, may even prove to be more potent than probiotics," they added.

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Source: Neurochemistry International
Volume 63, Issue 8, Pages 756–764, doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2013.10.006
"Prebiotic feeding elevates central brain derived neurotrophic factor, N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor subunits and d-serine"
Authors: Helene M. Savignac, Giulia Corona, et al

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