Prenatal Stress and the Microbiome: Relevance to Neurodevelopment

Publish Date: 19 April 2017
Author(s): Tamar L. Gur, MD, PhD


Microbes are an essential part of the gut-brain axis, and evidence supports microbes as an important contributor to mental health. Dr Gur’s research lab now has animal model evidence that prenatal stress alters maternal microbiota, placental microbes, and leads to dysbiosis in adult female and male offspring. In placentas of female origin, their findings report significant increases in cytokines and chemokines in prenatal stress, as well as a significant decrease in brain derived neurotrophic factor, a protein involved in synapse formation and neurodevelopment. They also found a concomitant increase in anxiety-like behavior and decrease in cognitive ability in females exposed to prenatal stress. Exposure of the male fetus to prenatal stress alters exposure to corticosterone in utero and continued alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, oxytocin, microbiome, neuroinflammation and social behaviors in adulthood.

Dr Gur concludes that gaining an understanding of how alterations in the placental microbes influence inflammation and neurodevelopment may support use of prebiotics or probiotics during pregnancy to improve mental health outcomes in offspring.

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Author Bios

A headshot of Tamar Gur

Tamar L. Gur, MD, PhD

The Ohio State University, College of Medicine; Columbus, Ohio, USA

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