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LNG 2021 Christmas Symposium: The Gut-Brain Axis

December 15, 2021 @ 16:00 17:30

Following on from our hugely successful Christmas event in 2019, we are pleased to present a virtual Christmas symposium for 2021.

As part of our mission to increase public engagement with neuroscience research, this event is free & open to all.



Is there a role for the gut-brain axis in improving animal welfare?

Do animals suffer from poor mental health (e.g. depression and anxiety) like humans do? If so, what methods can we use to test this? And what can be done to improve poor mental health if it arises? In this talk I will explore these questions and introduce some of the new methods being used to assess psychological wellbeing in animals. I will present preliminary genetic and cognitive data exploring the possibility for an influence of the gut microbiome on mental health in non-human primates and discuss future avenues for this research.

Dr Emily Bethell, Liverpool John Moores University

Dr Emily J Bethell, Reader in Animal Cognition and Welfare at LJMU, has over 20 years’ experience researching cognition and welfare in non-human primates. More recently this has expanded to include other animals including domesticated pets and livestock.

4.30 PM

Keynote: Gut Feelings - The Microbiome Gut Brain Axis & Behaviour

The microbiota-gut-brain axis is emerging as a research area of increasing interest for those investigating the biological and physiological basis of neurodevelopmental, age-related and neurodegenerative disorders. The routes of communication between the gut and brain include the vagus nerve, the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, via the enteric nervous system or via  microbial metabolites such as short chain fatty acids. Studies in animal models have been key in delineating that neurodevelopment and the programming of an appropriate stress response is dependent on the microbiota. Developmentally, a variety of factors can impact the microbiota in early life including mode of birth delivery, antibiotic exposure, mode of nutritional provision, infection, stress as well as host genetics.   Stress can significantly impact the microbiota-gut-brain axis at all stages across the lifespan. Recently, the gut microbiota has also been implicated in a variety of conditions including obesity, autism, schizophrenia, motor neuron disease and Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, animal models have been key in linking  the regulation of fundamental brain processes ranging from adult hippocampal neurogenesis to myelination to microglia activation by the microbiome. Finally, studies examining the translation of these effects from animals to humans are currently ongoing. Further studies will focus on understanding the mechanisms underlying such brain effects and developing nutritional and microbial-based intervention strategies.

Professor John Cryan, University College Cork

John F. Cryan is Professor & Chair, Dept. of Anatomy & Neuroscience, University College Cork and was appointed Vice President for Research & Innovation in March 2021.  He is also a Principal Investigator in the APC Microbiome Ireland Institute. Prof. Cryan’s current research is focused on understanding the interaction between brain, gut & microbiome and how it applies to stress, psychiatric and immune-related disorders at key time-windows across the lifespan. Prof. Cryan has published over 600 peer-reviewed articles and has a H-index of 134 (Google Scholar). He is a Senior Editor of Neuropharmacology and of Neurobiology of Stress and is on the editorial board of a further 15 journals. He has co-edited four books and is co-author of the bestselling  “The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food, and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection” (National Geographic Press, 2017). He has received numerous awards including UCC Researcher of the Year in 2012,  the University of Utrecht Award for Excellence in Pharmaceutical Research in 2013, UCC Research Communicator of the Year 2017, and being named on the Highly Cited Researcher list in 2014 and from 2017 to the present. He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2017. He also received a Research Mentor Award from the American Gastroenterology Association and the Tom Connor Distinguished Scientist Award from Neuroscience Ireland in 2017 and was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Antwerp, Belgium in 2018. He was a TEDMED speaker in Washington in 2014, TEDx Speaker in 2017 and is a Past-President of the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society.