A new research, developed at the Department of Psychiatry of the University of North Carolina, and published in Biological Psychiatry, shows that the intestinal microbiota can influence the cognitive development of the child,
The researchers analyzed faecal samples from children from one year until development to determine the bacterial composition of their intestine.
At the age of two, some children scored significantly better on cognitive tests than others. The differences were found in relation to the bacterial clusters that had been identified in their intestinal microbiotes.
According to the researchers, if we could better understand what the real beneficial strains are in the complex microbiota community for brain development, the creation of specific therapies for cognitive development would be at the forefront.
Actually this is a very promising field of research and the steps that are taking place are very fast.
The first year of life is the fundamental period for microbial colonization of the intestine and the most rapid and dynamic phase of postnatal brain development.
The possible competition of these processes has not been tested empirically in humans, although studies on rodent models provide convincing evidence that microorganisms inhabiting the gut affect neurodevelopment, in particular both exploratory and communicative behaviors and cognitive performance. .
A number of studies replicated in animal research have shown that if you manipulate the microbiota, you can affect the behavior especially in the first two years of life since in this period is presented by both the microbiota and the neuronal component, a growth very fast and dynamic.
The researchers hypothesized that samples of the intestinal microbiota can be grouped in groups of “community similarity or cluster” and that children with different groups would differ in cognitive abilities.
It has been seen that overall cognitive performance would be higher in clusters with an abundance of specifically beneficial microorganisms (eg Lactobacillus or Bacteroides), while that of low alpha diversity (which indicates a less mature microbiota) would be correlated with a cognitive performance lower.
The children were subsequently grouped into three groups: Cluster 1 (C1) was characterized by a relatively high abundance of Faecalibacterium, cluster 2 (C2) by a relatively high abundance of Bacteroides and cluster 3 (C3) by an abundance relatively high of an unnamed genus in the Ruminococcaceae family.
Breastfeeding at the time of sample collection (1 year), the method of delivery and the paternal ethnic group were significantly different among the clusters. Children in C2 were more likely to be breastfed at the age of 1 and were less likely to be born by cesarean delivery.
The paternal ethnicity in C2 was 90% white; in C3, the paternal ethnic group was 71% white; in C1, the paternal ethnic group was 57% white.
Primary analysis showed that children’s cognitive abilities differed between clusters.
Although there are some differences between the three clusters on neuroimaging data, exploratory analyzes revealed that the intestinal microbiota had “minimal effects” on regional brain volumes at 1 and 2 years of age.
It is possible, even if this is speculative, that a faster microbiota maturation in this sample may be less advantageous, or that the slower development of the microbiota is related to a longer period of brain plasticity.
However, the study strongly links the initial intestinal microbiota to subsequent cognitive development and that factors that determine the initial microbiota, such as breast or artificial feeding, can affect cognitive functioning.
It can be concluded that the research fits showing that breastfeeding is good and that vaginal delivery has significantly positive effects.