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Psychology and microbiology make unlikely friends, but the past decade has witnessed striking bidirectional associations between intrinsic gut microbes and the brain, relationships with largely untested psychological implications. Although microbe-brain relationships are receiving a great deal of attention in biomedicine and neuroscience, psychologists have yet to join this journey. Here, we illustrate microbial associations with emotion, cognition, and social behavior. However, despite considerable enthusiasm and potential, technical and conceptual limitations including low statistical power and lack of mechanistic descriptions prevent a nuanced understanding of microbiome-brain-behavior relationships. Our goal is to describe microbial effects in domains of cognitive significance and the associated challenges to stimulate interdisciplinary research on the contribution of this hidden kingdom to psychological processes.

Original publication




Journal article


Trends Cogn Sci

Publication Date





611 - 636


antibiotics, commensal bacteria, gut–brain axis, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, interkingdom signaling, microbiome, microbiota, prebiotics, probiotics, psychobiotics