Embracing Complexity: Exploring The Connections Between Chronic Fatigue, Behavior, And Gut Microbiome Dysbiosis In Children With Neurodevelopment Disorders

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Bean, Corbin, & MacEachern Fatigue, Behaviour, and the Microbiome Embracing Complexity: Exploring the connections between chronic fatigue, behaviour, and gut microbiome dysbiosis in children with neurodevelopmental disorders Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), which include intellectual disability and autism, represent the largest identifiable subpopulation of children with disabilities in North America. Up to 80% of children with NDDs exhibit behaviours of concern, which are abnormal behaviours such as aggression and self-injury that threaten the safety of a child or those around them, and limit the child’s ability to participate in typical activities such as attending school or community facilities.1 These behaviours are associated with reduced quality of life for the child and their family and consume a disproportionate amount of health resources. Despite their prevalence and significant impact on pediatric patients and their families, the underlying cause of behaviours of concern can be difficult to elucidate and treatments are limited. This is due in part to the neurodevelopmental complexity of these patients. Both chronic fatigue and gut microbiome dysbiosis are promising emerging, cutting-edge modifiable risk factors for behaviours of concern. Chronic fatigue, which is defined as fatigue persisting for greater than six months, impacts most children with NDDs and exacerbates the frequency and duration of behaviours of concern.2 Gut microbiome dysbiosis is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders and has been linked to behaviours of concern.3 In a recent study (2023), it was shown that neurotypical adults with chronic fatigue exhibit extensive gut microbiome dysbiosis related to differences in species abundance, function, and ecological interactions.4 However, the relationship between chronic fatigue and gut microbiome dysbiosis has not been explored in children with NDDs who have behaviours of concern. Further elucidation of this yet unexplored link could lead to improved understanding of the causes of behaviours of concern and identify novel potential treatment targets. We theorize that a major contributing factor to our limited understanding and treatment of behaviours of concern in children with NDDs is that most prior research has ignored complexity in favour of simplicity. These highly complex and disparate areas of science are actually inexorably linked, and have not been well-served by overly reductionist approaches. We will test the hypothesis that chronic fatigue and behaviours of concern are intimately connected with gut microbiome dysbiosis in children with NDDs (Figure 1). We aim to identify correlations between chronic fatigue and degree of gut microbiome dysbiosis in children with NDDs who have behaviours of concern.
Effective start/end date8/1/237/31/25


  • Research Corporation for Science Advancement: $55,000.00


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