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Microbiota & the Brain

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Premysl Bercik:

Stephen Collins:

Lab Website:

Giada de Palma:

Our lab studies the bidirectional interactions between the microbiota and the brain. Previous work described how experimentally-induced anxiety or depression impacted the microbiota and subsequent susceptibility to inflammatory GI disease. Current work includes the study of mechanisms underlying microbiota-to-brain signaling utilizing germ-free and gnotobiotic mice. More recent studies examine the impact of the microbiota on cognitive function in the aging brain. In addition, we investigate potential microbiota contributions to mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, utilizing mice colonized with microbiota from patients with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive illness, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease with psychiatric co-morbidity. In translational work, from our preclinical studies, we selected probiotic bacteria for their ability to modulate behaviour and translated these findings into patients with depression.

Investigating the Role of the Microbiota in Neuronal Degeneration and Aging

Lesley McNeil:

Lab Website:

Research in the MacNeil laboratory uses the nematode C. elegans to examine the effects of bacteria found in the human microbiome on neuronal function and neurodegeneration. By examining the impact of hundreds of bacterial strains isolated from the human microbiome, this group has identified specific bacteria that can promote neurodegeneration or neuroprotection in models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. To understand how these bacteria influence neurodegeneration, they are identifying both the bacterial factors and the host responses involved. With this approach, they have identified genes that can modify neurodegeneration and whose expression is controlled by exposure to specific species of bacteria. Long term, they hope to translate their findings into mammalian systems.