Antibiotics, probiotics, exercise and the creation of new brain cells

May 20, 2016  |  By Cory Grand, PhD, PMP

Antibiotics and Brain Cells

A recent study (Ly6Chi Monocytes Provide a Link between Antibiotic-Induced Changes in Gut Microbiota and Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis) underscores the importance of the microbiome in yet another seemingly-unrelated process: this group found that depletion of the gut microbiome with antibiotics led to a decreased capacity for neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

Or… in layman’s terms, wiping out the bacteria that live in the gut by using antibiotics resulted in an impaired ability to create new brain cells in an area of the brain important in memory formation. The research group verified this not only by looking at the formation of brain cells, but also using cognitive tests.

Probiotics Restore Brain Cell Formation

Also interesting was the fact that this could be reversed through the administration of probiotics; by re-establishing the microbiome in these animals after antibiotic treatment, neuronal regeneration and cognitive function was back to normal levels.

Surprisingly, fecal transplant (essentially transplanting the gut bacteria from one mouse into another) from non-antibiotic-treated animals was not as effective.

Exercise and Our Immune Systems Play a Part

Perhaps even more surprisingly, voluntary exercise also led to improved levels of brain cell formation, although this effect was better in mice with a functional gut microbial population.

When this research group delved deeper, it appeared that a particular subset of the innate immune system, Ly6C(hi) monocytes, was necessary for these effects; these immune cells, which infiltrate into the central nervous system, are at least a part of the conduit that carries signals from the gut microbiome to the brain.

We’ve known for a while that the intestinal bacterial population plays a role in the immune system and inflammation, so it’s possible that there’s some commonalities between that signaling and the signaling along the gut / immune / brain axis.

My broad takeaways:

The microbiome is important in optimal brain function, which is now expanded to the creation of new brain cells and memory formation in the hippocampus. There appears to be an important role for probiotics in re-establishing the microbiome (and its function throughout the body) after antibiotic treatment. Also, exercise is good for your brain (among its myriad other benefits).

Study the Microbiome with Wasatch Scientific 

At Wasatch Scientific, much of our focus is on the microbiome, both on determining the characteristics of a healthy microbiome as well as investigating the beneficial effects of pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, natural product or probiotic supplementation.

Check us out at  And drop us a line if you’re interested in understanding how your products impact the microbiome, or in developing products aimed at improving microbiome health.


Cory L. Grand, PhD, PMP

Project Manager / Client Liaison
Wasatch Scientific Services
5201 Green St., Suite 160
Salt Lake City, UT 84123