While initial studies focused on characterizing the gut microbiome, there has been a shift in the field towards mechanistic research focusing on microbiome influence on host phenotype. Here, science and medical writer Andreu Prados updates major breakthroughs in the field in 2019.

Our gut has the ability to learn behaviours thanks to the network of neurons within the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. Interestingly, learning and memory processes take part in the gut and could explain, for instance, the involvement of enteric nervous system in the onset of specific gut disorders.

Previous studies have shown associations between gut microbiota and the onset of autism spectrum disorders, especially in children with recurrent gastrointestinal problems. New research provides the first evidence of gut bacteria’s direct contribution to autism-like behaviors in mice.