Exploring the association between microbiota and behaviour in suckling piglets

Choudhury, R.; Middelkoop, A.; Bolhuis, J.E.; Kleerebezem, M.


It is increasingly recognised that the microbes residing in the gastrointestinal tract can influence brain physiology and behaviour, via the microbiota–gut–brain axis. Here, we made a first explorative evaluation at the association between the gut microbiota and behaviour in suckling piglets. 16S microbiota profiling information was obtained from two independent replicate experiments at 2 and 4 weeks of age. Piglets underwent a backtest to assess their personality or coping style at 2 weeks of age, and were subjected to a combined open field and novel object test at 3.5 weeks of age, recording anxiety-related and exploratory behaviour. The number of squeals vocalised during the open field test was associated with microbial groups such as Coprococcus 3 and CAG-873, whereas in the novel object test, explorative behaviour was significantly associated with microbial genera like Atopobium and Prevotella. Overall, this study explores the microbiota-behavioural relation by employing multivariate analysis and exemplifies the importance of individualised analyses when evaluating such relationships.