Gil Sharon, Timothy R. Sampson, Daniel H. Geschwind, and Sarkis K. Mazmanian
Neurodevelopment is a complex process governed by both intrinsic and extrinsic signals. While historically studied by researching the brain, inputs from the periphery impact many neurological conditions. Indeed, emerging data suggest communication between the gut and the brain in anxiety, depression, cognition, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The development of a healthy, functional brain depends on key pre- and post-natal events that integrate environmental cues, such as molecular signals from the gut. These cues largely originate from the microbiome, the consortium of symbiotic bacteria that reside within all animals. Research over the past few years reveals that the gut microbiome plays a role in basic neurogenerative processes such as the formation of the blood-brain barrier, myelination, neurogenesis, and microglia maturation and also modulates many aspects of animal behavior. Herein, we discuss the biological intersection of neurodevelopment and the micro- biome and explore the hypothesis that gut bacteria are integral contributors to development and function of the nervous system and to the balance between mental health and disease.