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Do your gut microbes affect your brain dopamine?

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Increasing evidence shows changes in gut microbiota composition in association with psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression. Moreover, it has been reported that perturbations in gut microbe diversity and richness influence serotonergic, GABAergic, noradrenergic, and dopaminergic neurotransmission. Among these, dopamine is regarded as a main regulator of cognitive functions such as decision making, attention, memory, motivation, and reward. In this work, we will highlight findings that link alterations in intestinal microbiota and dopaminergic neurotransmission, with a particular emphasis on the mesocorticolimbic circuit, which is involved in reward to natural reinforcers, as well as abuse substances. For this, we reviewed evidence from studies carried out on germ-free animals, or in rodents subjected to intestinal dysbiosis using antibiotics, and also through the use of probiotics. All this evidence strongly supports that the microbiota-gut-brain axis is key to the physiopathology of several neuropsychiatric disorders involving those where dopaminergic neurotransmission is compromised. In addition, the gut microbiota appears as a key player when it comes to proposing novel strategies to the treatment of these psychiatric conditions.

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This work was supported by FONDECYT Grants #1140776 and #1190729 to J.A.B, #1160398 to R.S-Z and #1181019 to M.J-P. IDRC. C.G-A, J.U-P, and J.I-P are recipients of graduate fellowship “Beca de Doctorado Nacional” from CONICYT.

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Correspondence to Javier A. Bravo.

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This article belongs to a Special Issue on Microbiome in Psychiatry & Psychopharmacology.

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González-Arancibia, C., Urrutia-Piñones, J., Illanes-González, J. et al. Do your gut microbes affect your brain dopamine?. Psychopharmacology 236, 1611–1622 (2019).

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