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We have previously shown that prebiotics (dietary fibres that augment the growth of indigenous beneficial gut bacteria) such as Bimuno™ galacto-oligosaccharides (B-GOS®), increased N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor levels in the rat brain. The current investigation examined the functional correlates of these changes in B-GOS®-fed rats by measuring cortical neuronal responses to NMDA using in vivo NMDA micro-iontophoresis electrophysiology, and performance in the attentional set-shifting task. Adult male rats were supplemented with B-GOS® in the drinking water 3 weeks prior to in vivo iontophoresis or behavioural testing. Cortical neuronal responses to NMDA iontophoresis, were greater (+30%) in B-GOS® administered rats compared to non-supplemented controls. The intake of B-GOS® also partially hindered the reduction of NMDA responses by the glycine site antagonist, HA-966. In the attentional set-shifting task, B-GOS® -fed rats shifted from an intra-dimensional to an extra-dimensional set in fewer trials than controls, thereby indicating greater cognitive flexibility. An initial exploration into the mechanisms revealed that rats ingesting B-GOS® had increased levels of plasma acetate, and cortical GluN2B subunits and Acetyl Co-A Carboxylase mRNA. These changes were also observed in rats fed daily for 3 weeks with glyceryl triacetate, though unlike B-GOS®, cortical histone deacetylase (HDAC1, HDAC2) mRNAs were also increased which suggested an additional epigenetic action of direct acetate supplementation. Our data demonstrate that a pro-cognitive effect of B-GOS® intake in rats is associated with an increase in cortical NMDA receptor function, but the role of circulating acetate derived from gut bacterial fermentation of this prebiotic requires further investigation.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Neuropsychopharmacol

Publication Date





211 - 224


Cognition, Electrophysiology, Glutamate, Microbiota, Short-chain fatty acid