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Probiotic Mixture Containing Lactobacillus helveticus, Bifidobacterium longum and Lactiplantibacillus plantarum Affects Brain Responses Toward an Emotional Task in Healthy Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial

  • 2022-04-29
  • Frontiers in Nutrition 9
    • Julia Rode
    • Hanna M. T. Edebol Carlman
    • J. König
    • Dirk Repsilber
    • A. N. Hutchinson
    • P. Thunberg
    • P. Andersson
    • J. Persson
    • A. Kiselev
    • Lori Lathrop Stern
    • B. Salomon
    • Ahmed Abdulilah Mohammed
    • J. Labus
    • R. Brummer


Background: Evidence from preclinical studies suggests that probiotics affect brain function via the microbiome-gut-brain axis, but evidence in humans remains limited.

Objective: The present proof-of-concept study investigated if a probiotic product containing a mixture of Bifidobacterium longum R0175, Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Lactiplantibacillus plantarum R1012 (in total 3 × 109 CFU/day) affected functional brain responses in healthy subjects during an emotional attention task.

Design: In this double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study (, NCT03615651), 22 healthy subjects (24.2 ± 3.4 years, 6 males/16 females) were exposed to a probiotic intervention and a placebo for 4 weeks each, separated by a 4-week washout period. Subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing an emotional attention task after each intervention period. Differential brain activity and functional connectivity were assessed.

Results: Altered brain responses were observed in brain regions implicated in emotional, cognitive and face processing. Increased activation in the orbitofrontal cortex, a region that receives extensive sensory input and in turn projects to regions implicated in emotional processing, was found after probiotic intervention compared to placebo using a cluster-based analysis of functionally defined areas. Significantly reduced task-related functional connectivity was observed after the probiotic intervention compared to placebo. Fecal microbiota composition was not majorly affected by probiotic intervention.

Conclusion: The probiotic intervention resulted in subtly altered brain activity and functional connectivity in healthy subjects performing an emotional task without major effects on the fecal microbiota composition. This indicates that the probiotic effects occurred via microbe-host interactions on other levels. Further analysis of signaling molecules could give possible insights into the modes of action of the probiotic intervention on the gut-brain axis in general and brain function specifically. The presented findings further support the growing consensus that probiotic supplementation influences brain function and emotional regulation, even in healthy subjects. Future studies including patients with altered emotional processing, such as anxiety or depression symptoms are of great interest.

Clinical trial registration: [], identifier [NCT03615651].

Keywords: brain activity; emotional attention task (EAT); functional connectivity; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); gut microbiota; gut-brain axis; probiotics; task-related.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Bifidobacterium plantarumEnhanced Orbitofrontal Cortex ActivationBeneficial
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