Skip to main content

The Effect of Antibiotics in Early Life on Brain Function and Behaviour

The human gastrointestinal tract is home to 100 trillion microorganisms. Research has found that these microorganisms, known as gut microbiota, play an important role in the development and normal function of our immune and nervous systems. This project will offer important insights into how antibiotics might disrupt gut microbiota and affect brain function in young children.

Brain chemistry and antibiotics

Recent evidence in animal models suggests that gut microbiota can influence brain chemistry, which can affect behaviour. However, we do not know how this occurs. We also do not know how the disruption of normal gut microbiota early in life from antibiotic use, for example, might influence brain development and potentially contribute to behavioural and/or mood disorders.

This project will seek to offer some answers. The research team will aim to:

-understand the mechanisms underpinning the microbiome-gut-brain axis and the potential contribution of gut microbiota disruption to neurodevelopmental and behavioural disorders

-determine the long-term impact of early life disruption of the gut microbiota on brain chemistry and behaviour related to anxiety and social interaction

-delineate immune mechanisms linking the altered microbiota to behavioural changes

-identify potentially novel components of the microbiota-gut-brain axis related to antibiotic effects on brain function and behaviour

-further develop the training environment and collaborative research among the partners

Understanding the gut-brain link

The successful completion of this project will provide a greater understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the connection between gut bacteria and the brain. It will provide insight into the gut microbiota disruption's potential contribution to the development of mood and behavioural disorders. This knowledge may help researchers develop novel approaches to maintaining mental health.

Project leadership

The project lead is Paul Forsythe at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada. His collaborators include Omry Koren, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and Javier Bravo and Marcela Julio, Pontificia Universidad Cato¿lica de Valparai¿so, Chile.

Project funding

This project is funded through the first research competition of the Joint Canada-Israel Health Research Initiative. The Initiative is a collaboration between the Azrieli Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Israel Science Foundation, and Canada's International Development Research Centre.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Fabiano Santos
Total Funding
CA$ 546,152.00
Foundations for Innovation
Canada-Israel Health Research Program
Institution Country
Project Leader
Paul Forsythe
McMaster University