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      Interplay Between the Gut-Brain Axis, Obesity and Cognitive Function


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          Obesity continues to be one of the major public health problems due to its high prevalence and co-morbidities. Common co-morbidities not only include cardiometabolic disorders but also mood and cognitive disorders. Obese subjects often show deficits in memory, learning and executive functions compared to normal weight subjects. Epidemiological studies also indicate that obesity is associated with a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety, and vice versa. These associations between pathologies that presumably have different etiologies suggest shared pathological mechanisms. Gut microbiota is a mediating factor between the environmental pressures (e.g., diet, lifestyle) and host physiology, and its alteration could partly explain the cross-link between those pathologies. Westernized dietary patterns are known to be a major cause of the obesity epidemic, which also promotes a dysbiotic drift in the gut microbiota; this, in turn, seems to contribute to obesity-related complications. Experimental studies in animal models and, to a lesser extent, in humans suggest that the obesity-associated microbiota may contribute to the endocrine, neurochemical and inflammatory alterations underlying obesity and its comorbidities. These include dysregulation of the HPA-axis with overproduction of glucocorticoids, alterations in levels of neuroactive metabolites (e.g., neurotransmitters, short-chain fatty acids) and activation of a pro-inflammatory milieu that can cause neuro-inflammation. This review updates current knowledge about the role and mode of action of the gut microbiota in the cross-link between energy metabolism, mood and cognitive function.

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          Most cited references 147

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          Recognition of commensal microflora by toll-like receptors is required for intestinal homeostasis.

          Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a crucial role in host defense against microbial infection. The microbial ligands recognized by TLRs are not unique to pathogens, however, and are produced by both pathogenic and commensal microorganisms. It is thought that an inflammatory response to commensal bacteria is avoided due to sequestration of microflora by surface epithelia. Here, we show that commensal bacteria are recognized by TLRs under normal steady-state conditions, and this interaction plays a crucial role in the maintenance of intestinal epithelial homeostasis. Furthermore, we find that activation of TLRs by commensal microflora is critical for the protection against gut injury and associated mortality. These findings reveal a novel function of TLRs-control of intestinal epithelial homeostasis and protection from injury-and provide a new perspective on the evolution of host-microbial interactions.
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            The adolescent brain and age-related behavioral manifestations.

            To successfully negotiate the developmental transition between youth and adulthood, adolescents must maneuver this often stressful period while acquiring skills necessary for independence. Certain behavioral features, including age-related increases in social behavior and risk-taking/novelty-seeking, are common among adolescents of diverse mammalian species and may aid in this process. Reduced positive incentive values from stimuli may lead adolescents to pursue new appetitive reinforcers through drug use and other risk-taking behaviors, with their relative insensitivity to drugs supporting comparatively greater per occasion use. Pubertal increases in gonadal hormones are a hallmark of adolescence, although there is little evidence for a simple association of these hormones with behavioral change during adolescence. Prominent developmental transformations are seen in prefrontal cortex and limbic brain regions of adolescents across a variety of species, alterations that include an apparent shift in the balance between mesocortical and mesolimbic dopamine systems. Developmental changes in these stressor-sensitive regions, which are critical for attributing incentive salience to drugs and other stimuli, likely contribute to the unique characteristics of adolescence.
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              Short-chain fatty acids and human colonic function: roles of resistant starch and nonstarch polysaccharides.

              Resistant starch (RS) is starch and products of its small intestinal digestion that enter the large bowel. It occurs for various reasons including chemical structure, cooking of food, chemical modification, and food mastication. Human colonic bacteria ferment RS and nonstarch polysaccharides (NSP; major components of dietary fiber) to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), mainly acetate, propionate, and butyrate. SCFA stimulate colonic blood flow and fluid and electrolyte uptake. Butyrate is a preferred substrate for colonocytes and appears to promote a normal phenotype in these cells. Fermentation of some RS types favors butyrate production. Measurement of colonic fermentation in humans is difficult, and indirect measures (e.g., fecal samples) or animal models have been used. Of the latter, rodents appear to be of limited value, and pigs or dogs are preferable. RS is less effective than NSP in stool bulking, but epidemiological data suggest that it is more protective against colorectal cancer, possibly via butyrate. RS is a prebiotic, but knowledge of its other interactions with the microflora is limited. The contribution of RS to fermentation and colonic physiology seems to be greater than that of NSP. However, the lack of a generally accepted analytical procedure that accommodates the major influences on RS means this is yet to be established.

                Author and article information

                Front Neurosci
                Front Neurosci
                Front. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                16 March 2018
                : 12
                1Microbial Ecology and Nutrition Research Unit, Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology, National Research Council (IATA-CSIC) , Valencia, Spain
                2IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, School of Medicine, Deakin University , Geelong, VIC, Australia
                Author notes

                Edited by: Antonio Benítez-Burraco, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain

                Reviewed by: Francesco Marotta, ReGenera Research Group, Italy; Maite Solas, Universidad de Navarra, Spain; Cristina Torres Fuentes, University of California, Davis, United States

                *Correspondence: Ana Agustí aagusti@ 123456iata.csic.es

                This article was submitted to Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience, a section of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience

                Copyright © 2018 Agustí, García-Pardo, López-Almela, Campillo, Maes, Romaní-Pérez and Sanz.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 220, Pages: 17, Words: 15698
                Funded by: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad 10.13039/501100003329
                Award ID: AGL2014-52101-P
                Funded by: Seventh Framework Programme 10.13039/100011102
                Award ID: 613979


                microbiota, cognition, mood, behavior, obesity


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