Antibiotics Disrupt Development of the ‘Social Brain’ in Mice

Summary: Early-life exposure to antibiotics may impact brain signaling pathways associated with social behavior and pain regulation. Young mice treated with antibiotics had reduced expression of receptors that mediate endorphin, oxytocin, and vasopressin signaling in the frontal cortex.

Source: University of Oxford

Antibiotic treatment in early life seems to impede brain signalling pathways that function in social behaviour and pain regulation in mice, a new study by Dr Katerina Johnson and Dr Philip Burnet has found. It was published today in BMC Neuroscience.

Katerina Johnson, from the University’s Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology, was researching the effects of disrupting the microbiome on the brain in mice. ‘We know from previous research that animals missing microbes, such as germ-free animals (which are devoid of microbes) or antibiotic-treated animals (whose microbes are severely depleted), have impaired social behaviour,’ she explains. ‘I was therefore particularly interested in the effects of the microbiome on endorphin, oxytocin and vasopressin signalling since these neuropeptides play an important role in social and emotional behaviour.’

The most striking finding was in young animals treated with antibiotics. This resulted in reduced expression of the receptors which mediate endorphin, oxytocin and vasopressin signalling in the frontal cortex. Dr Johnson commented, ‘If these signalling pathways are less active, this may help explain the behavioural deficits seen in antibiotic-treated animals. Whilst this study was in animals given a potent antibiotic cocktail, this finding highlights the potential detrimental effects that antibiotic exposure may have on the brain when it’s still developing.’

Dr Burnet added, ‘Our research underlines the growing consensus that disturbing the microbiome during development can have significant impacts on physiology, including the brain.’…

https://neurosciencenews.com/antibiotics-social-change-16688/

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