Multicellular organisms have co-evolved with complex consortia of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, collectively referred to as the microbiota. In mammals, changes in the composition of the microbiota can influence many physiologic processes (including development, metabolism and immune cell function) and are associated with susceptibility to multiple diseases. Alterations in the microbiota can also modulate host behaviours—such as social activity, stress, and anxiety-related responses—that are linked to diverse neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the mechanisms by which the microbiota influence neuronal activity and host behaviour remain poorly defined. Here we show that manipulation of the microbiota in antibiotic-treated or germ-free adult mice results in significant deficits in fear extinction learning.
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