Consumption of a fermented dairy beverage improves hippocampal-dependent relational memory in a randomized, controlled cross-over trial

Corinne N. Cannavale, Annemarie R. Mysonhimer, Melisa A. Bailey, Neal J. Cohen, Hannah D. Holscher, Naiman A. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: We aimed to determine whether consumption of a fermented dairy beverage containing probiotic microorganisms influences negative mood states, stress, and hippocampal memory performance in healthy adults. Methods: Adults (25-45 yrs, N = 26) free of gastrointestinal and mental illness were enrolled in a single-blind, randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Participants completed testing prior to and after 4-week consumption, with a 2–4 week washout between treatments of: (1) 8 oz of a dairy-based fermented beverage containing 25–30 billion colony forming units of live and active kefir cultures or (2) 8 oz isocaloric, non-fermented, 1% low-fat lactose-free dairy-based control beverage. Hippocampal-dependent relational memory was assessed using a spatial reconstruction task. Negative mood states of depression and anxiety were assessed using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-42 (DASS-42). Pooled 24-hour urine samples were analyzed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine urinary free-cortisol (UFC) concentrations. Fecal microbiota composition was assessed using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Results:Lactobacillus was increased by 235% following fermented dairy consumption compared to the control (p <.01). Furthermore, the fermented dairy beverage improved performance on two metrics of relational memory, misplacement (p =.04) and object-location binding (p =.03). UFC and DASS-42 scores (all p’s >.08) were not significantly changed by either arm of the intervention. No correlations were observed between the change in Lactobacillus and memory performance. Conclusions: Fermented dairy consumption increased the presence of certain microorganisms in the gut and improved relational memory in healthy adults. However, the benefits observed for relational memory were not related to changes in Lactobacillus. Trial identifier: NCT02849275.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-274
Number of pages10
JournalNutritional Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023


  • Probiotics
  • anxiety
  • cognition
  • depression
  • fecal microbiota
  • hippocampus
  • intestinal microbiota
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • General Neuroscience
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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