Home Portfolio Brain Cognition

What is the relationship between the intestinal microbiota, the gut and impaired cognition?

An elderly man and woman hugging and smiling.
An elderly man and woman hugging and smiling.
Thanks to medical advancements, our bodies can now outlast our brains to an unprecedented extent. However, this longevity has led to a higher occurrence of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Notably, there is growing interest in the connection between the composition of the gut microbiota and the rising prevalence of impaired cognitive function.

The mental processes of cognition

Cognition covers mental processes like thinking, remembering, perceiving, reasoning and problem-solving. Cognitive impairment therefore refers to difficulties in memory, learning, concentration and decision-making that impact daily life. Stressful situations such as deadlines or exams, can impair cognitive performance. Additionally, impaired cognitive function is a significant factor in the development, continuation and relapse of depression.

Gut microbiota and impaired cognitive function

There is compelling evidence linking gut microbiota composition to the gut-brain axis. Animal studies in particular show that reduced anxiety-and depression-like behaviours were observed in those raised in germ-free environments. Human research further underscores this connection, revealing differences in gut bacterial composition between healthy individuals and those experiencing depression.

Probiotics and cognition

This offers promise for enhancing cognitive performance by targeting the gut microbiota. Research indicates that probiotics can have a beneficial effect on gut microbiota, leading to improved cognitive function, especially under stress. This suggests probiotics could have significant benefits for cognitive well-being, particularly for high-risk groups such as students during exams.