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Congratulations to Dr Olivia O’Leary, Senior Lecturer in the Dept of Anatomy and Neuroscience, UCC & Funded Investigator in APC Microbiome Ireland, who received the ECNP 2020 Citation Award.

This award is given by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) to the lead author of the paper most frequently cited in the preceding two years in the  journal European Neuropsychopharmacology. The award was given to Dr O’Leary at the 33rd ECNP Congress in September 2020 during which she gave a presentation on the winning paper which is entitled The vagus nerve modulates BDNF expression and neurogenesis in the hippocampus

The co-authors of the paper included researchers in UCC and McMaster University, and were: Olivia O’Leary, Ebere Ogbonnaya, Daniela Felice, Brunno Levone, Lorraine Conroy, Patrick Fitzgerald, Javier Bravo, Paul Forsythe, John Bienenstock, Timothy Dinan and John Cryan.

Summary of the paper:

Accumulating evidence suggests that some of the microbes residing in the gut can influence the response to stress and may exert antidepressant-like effects. There is evidence that some gut bacteria use a nerve called the vagus nerve to communicate to the brain. The research in Dr O’Leary’s paper demonstrated that vagus nerve signals from the gut are important in maintaining the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus, a process called hippocampal neurogenesis.  Hippocampal neurogenesis is a brain process that is important for regulating the stress response and antidepressant action. Previously published research conducted by Dr O’Leary and her collaborator Prof John Cryan showed that gut microbiota also influence hippocampal neurogenesis, and there is evidence that some bacteria use this nerve to communicate to the brain. Thus, the findings from this paper also suggest that vagus nerve regulation of hippocampal neurogenesis may be a key mechanism for how some gut microbes could positively influence the stress response and exert antidepressant-like effects.