Minding Our Microbes

Our bodies are comprised of around ten times more microbial cells than human eukaryotic cells, and more and more, we are learning that these microbes that make up “us” play a fundamental role in regulating brain development and function, and behavior.

Microbes modulate host levels of neuroactive molecules, including neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, as well as complex behaviors, such as social, communicative, emotional and anxiety-like behaviors. Alterations in the microbial communities that inhabit us are further implicated in a variety of neurological disorders, including autism, depression and Parkinson's disease.

Situated at the interface of neurobiology, immunology and microbiology, we are using integrative systems approaches to study fundamental questions in biology:

  • What are the effects of the microbiota on the nervous system?
  • How do resident microbes communicate with the nervous system?
  • Which individual species or communities confer particular functional effects?
  • How do microbe-nervous system interactions impact health and disease?
  • What, if any, are the potential evolutionary benefits for microbes to interact with the nervous system?
  • Can rational modification of the microbiota be used to treat symptoms of neurological diseases?

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