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A bidirectional communication exists between the brain and the gut, in which the gut microbiota influences cognitive function and vice-versa. Gut dysbiosis has been linked to several diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD). However, the relationship between gut dysbiosis and markers of cerebral small vessel disease (cSVD), a major contributor to ADRD, is unknown. In this cross-sectional study, we examined the connection between the gut microbiome, cognitive, and neuroimaging markers of cSVD in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). Markers of cSVD included white matter hyperintensities (WMH), peak width of skeletonized mean diffusivity (PSMD), and executive function (EF), estimated as the difference between the trail-making tests B and A. We included 972 FHS participants with MRI scans, neurocognitive measures, and stool samples and quantified the gut microbiota composition using 16S rRNA sequencing. We used multivariable association and differential abundance analyses adjusting for age, sex, BMI, and education level to estimate the association between gut microbiota and WMH, PSMD, and EF measures. Our results suggest an increased abundance of Pseudobutyrivibrio and Ruminococcus genera was associated with lower WMH and PSMD (p values < 0.001), as well as better executive function (p values < 0.01). In addition, in both differential and multivariable analyses, we found that the gram-negative bacterium Barnesiella intestinihominis was strongly associated with markers indicating a higher cSVD burden. Finally, functional analyses using PICRUSt implicated various KEGG pathways, including microbial quorum sensing, AMP/GMP-activated protein kinase, phenylpyruvate, and β-hydroxybutyrate production previously associated with cognitive performance and dementia. Our study provides important insights into the association between the gut microbiome and cSVD, but further studies are needed to replicate the findings.


© The Author(s) 2023

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Scientific Reports



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Mentor/PI Department

Office of Human Genetics



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