Research Title: TRANSMIT – enTeRic Afferent seNsing to aScribe MIcrobial activity.
Project Background: The term microbiota-gut-brain axis is widely used in presentations targeting the research and general public community but to date, it remains unclear what mechanisms underlie microbiota-related changes in brain function. Neurons constitute an important part of this gut-brain axis. The intestine comprises enteric neurons which form an interconnected network throughout the entire length of the intestine and regulate intestinal motility and secretion independent from the brain, and nerve fibers from neurons with direct input in the brain.
My project investigates the ability of individual microbes to produce soluble mediators that directly target intestinal neurons. I will determine the neuromodulatory capacity of microbial metabolites in assays for intestinal function which rely on enteric neuron activation and afferent nerve recordings which report the activity of nerve fibers that transmit information to the brain. I will also test the hypothesis that the response of intestinal neurons to bacterial metabolites is dependent on the microbiota.
This research will lead to a better understanding of bacteria-host interaction and evaluate the potential of microbes to modulate intestinal neuron activity as a mean to ultimately affect brain function.