Over the past decade, a growing body of literature has demonstrated that the gut-brain axis (the bidirectional communication between the microbiome within the digestive tract and the brain) plays a key role in the normal neurodevelopment and behaviour of rodent models and in human subjects. Changes in the microbiota community structure have been associated with negative health outcomes, such as nutrition/metabolic related disorders and immune-mediated diseases. Additionally, the microbiota and its metabolites are likely to be involved in modulating behaviors and brain processes, including stress responsiveness, pain modulation and ingestive behavior. This raises the potential of targeting this system in other species, such as in livestock animals, in order to develop novel ways to modulate animal stress-susceptibility and feeding behaviour, and hence improving animal health, welfare and productivity.
Given the multidisciplinary nature of this approach, it is essential to improve our understanding of the interactions between animal physiology, gut microbiology, hormones, neurotransmitters and brain function. This can be achieved by strengthening the relationship between researchers and professionals of the different fields involved.