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Bifidobacterium longum 1714™ Strain Modulates Brain Activity of Healthy Volunteers During Social Stress

Wang, Huiying, PhD1,2,3; Braun, Christoph, PhD2,4; Murphy, Eileen F., PhD5; Enck, Paul, PhD1

doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000000203

OBJECTIVES: Accumulating evidence indicates that the gut microbiota communicates with the central nervous system, possibly through neural, endocrine, and immune pathways, and influences brain function. B. longum 1714™ has previously been shown to attenuate cortisol output and stress responses in healthy subjects exposed to an acute stressor. However, the ability of B. longum 1714™ to modulate brain function in humans is unclear.

METHODS: In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, the effects of B. longum 1714™ on neural responses to social stress, induced by the “Cyberball game,” a standardized social stress paradigm, were studied. Forty healthy volunteers received either B. longum 1714™ or placebo for 4 weeks at a dose of 1 × 109 cfu/d. Brain activity was measured using magnetoencephalography and health status using the 36-item short-form health survey.

RESULTS: B. longum 1714™ altered resting-state neural oscillations, with an increase in theta band power in the frontal and cingulate cortex (P < 0.05) and a decrease in beta-3 band in the hippocampus, fusiform, and temporal cortex (P < 0.05), both of which were associated with subjective vitality changes. All groups showed increased social stress after a 4-week intervention without an effect at behavioral level due to small sample numbers. However, only B. longum 1714™ altered neural oscillation after social stress, with increased theta and alpha band power in the frontal and cingulate cortex (P < 0.05) and supramarginal gyrus (P < 0.05).

DISCUSSION: B. longum 1714™ modulated resting neural activity that correlated with enhanced vitality and reduced mental fatigue. Furthermore, B. longum 1714™ modulated neural responses during social stress, which may be involved in the activation of brain coping centers to counter-regulate negative emotions.

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1Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany;

2MEG Center, University Hospital Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany;

3Graduate Training Center of Neuroscience, IMPRS for Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience, Tübingen, Germany;

4CIMeC, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Trento, Italy;

5Alimentary Health Group, Cork Airport Business Park, Cork, Ireland.

Correspondence: Paul Enck. E-mail:

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL accompanies this paper at

Received August 12, 2018

Accepted January 25, 2019

© The American College of Gastroenterology 2019. All Rights Reserved.