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We read with interest the commentary by Bercik1 emphasising the influence that gut intestinal microflora may have on cognitive function—a model with clear therapeutic implications. We would like to propose, however, that a third party—the presence of autonomic nervous system dysfunction—complicates the relationship between cognitive impairment and gut microflora.
In a number of diseases, autonomic dysfunction has been associated with cognitive impairment,2 3 and its presence is associated with impaired gastrointestinal motility, a risk factor for changes in bacterial colonisation. Autonomic dysfunction is a common problem in patients with chronic liver disease (CLD)4—the group of patients highlighted in the commentary as having obvious cognitive problems, as benefiting from treatment aimed at modifying the …