Developing healthier brains through the gut

BabyImbalances in gut bacteria are increasingly being linked to a number of physical and mental illnesses, including neurological conditions such as depression, anxiety, autism, and Parkinson’s disease. Masonic support is enabling researchers to explore the impact of gut bacteria on early brain development.

In 2015, support from the Masons enabled University faculty Dan Knights, Ph.D., Ellen Demerath, Ph.D., Cheryl Gale, M.D., Michael Georgieff, M.D., and U researcher Neely Miller to take advantage of neuroimaging and neurogenomics tools to study the tie between gut bacteria and early brain development.

Their work is important because a number of factors could affect gut bacteria early in life—from antibiotic use to whether a baby is born vaginally or via cesarean section. 

Related to this work is the U's Center for Neurobehavioral Development, which brings together investigators from diverse fields who are dedicated to understanding brain and behavioral development throughout childhood.

The center provides space and support for research and access to state-of- the-art technologies such as EEG systems, infant and adult body composition machines, eye tracking equipment, and a range of computerized and standardized assessments. Currently, the center is advancing more than 30 interdisciplinary studies focused on helping developing, atypically developing, and at-risk children.

 

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