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Researchers led by UCLA’s Helen E. Vuong have determined that the presence of specific bacteria in the gut of pregnant mice can lead to long-term behavioral changes in the mice’s offspring. The group’s work contributes to the growing understanding of the relationship between gut bacteria and brain development.

They found that the brain structures of mouse embryos from mothers living in sterile environment (and therefore without a gut microbiome) had defects in the neurons that connect the cortex and thalamus, which are two regions of the brain. Furthermore, the mice born to mothers without gut bacteria displayed impaired behavioral responses to certain stimuli, such as heat and sound.

Further research indicated that these differences in neural development are due to the presence or absence of metabolic by-products from Clostridium bacteria, and that artificially supplementing these molecules to pregnant mice without gut bacteria prevented the observed behavioral deficits.

You can read Katherine Meckel and Drew Kiraly’s review of the new research¬†here.