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Intervention with probiotics for subjects with IBS and its possible effects on the brain-gut interaction in terms of stress, anxiety, gut microbiota and brain activity during visceral stimuli

About this project

Project information

Project status

In progress


Robert Jan Brummer

Research subject

Research environments

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) affects around 10-15 % of the adult western population and involves abdominal pain/discomfort and altered gastrointestinal motility and secretion. Except from gastrointestinal symptoms, about 70 % of patients with IBS also suffer from especially mood but also other psychiatric disorders and/or from pathological stress. Its etiology is multifactorial and concern suboptimal workings of the brain-gut interactions.

Mental stress plays an important role in the onset and modulation of IBS and can damage the integrity of the gut epithelium, alter the habitat for bacteria, gut microbiota composition and activity, with potential influence on brain functioning. Probiotic bacteria increases microbiota diversity with positive effect on gastrointestinal symptoms, behaviour in terms of reducing anxiety-like behaviour, improving learning, memory function and emotional processing. Neuroimaging shows that IBS patients are marked by their impaired inhibitory-control and abnormal processing of rectal pain in emotional-sensory regulatory areas like amygdala, hippocampus, the insula, thalamus and in the ACC (Wilder-Smith, et al., 2004). These are areas central for modulation of fear, anxiety, emotional learning and memory and they play a vital role in the pathogenesis of IBS. Probiotics normalize gut microbiota and increases production of serotonin, GABA and other neuroactive substances with beneficial effects in terms of emotional wellbeing and behaviour. As far as we are concerned there is yet only one study (Tillisch et al., 2013, Gastroenterology, 114, 1394-1401) assessing and demonstrating altered brain activity after probiotic consumption (4 weeks).

The aim of the study is to determine whether two different types of probiotics has any and/or different effects on IBS in terms of brain-gut interactions. The study evaluates activity in the emotional arousal network during rectal stimuli as well as physiological and behavioural parameters of stress- and anxiety during challenge tests.

Research teams

Research funding bodies

  • Valio