Spotlight Live: A New State of Mind

by Lindsay Borthwick

Emerging research on the microbiome and the brain

The Author

Lindsay Borthwick

The Researcher

Christopher Lowry
A decade if research on the human microbiome, the community of microbes that inhabits the body, has revealed that it is far bigger and more complex than scientists once thought. It is also more intimately linked to human health than ever imagined.

The brain is no exception. As research is revealing, our microbes— especially those living in the gut— have a powerful effect on the brain, influencing our emotions, our thoughts and even our memory. And when those microbes are disturbed, so too are our physical and mental health. For example, researchers have now linked obesity, anxiety, depression, autism, eating disorders and more to the gut and its flora.

Neuroscientist Christopher Lowry discusses the emerging science that's connecting the microbiome —the community of microbes that inhabit the body—with brain health, including whether we can treat common brain disorders through the gut.

About the Participants

  • CHRISTOPHER LOWRY is an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder and director of the Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Laboratory. Lowry is developing new strategies to prevent and treat anxiety and depression, including the use of beneficial microbes that live in the gut.
  • LINDSAY BORTHWICK (moderator) has been working as a science journalist for more than a decade and holds a Master’s degree in neuroscience.

Your Questions

  • Do we know which particular species/community are important for brain health? (2:40)
  • Is it likely that other organisms besides bacteria are also important to the microbiome? (5:25)
  • What prompted you to study bacteria and their interaction with our nervous system? (7:20)
  • How did the behavior of mice change in your experiment? (8:50)
  • How do these microbes communicate with the nervous system? (10:40)
  • Have there been human trials to test microbiome treatments? (17:30)
  • How far are we from treating brain disorders with probiotics? (19:30)
  • Can the microbiome effect our brain development? (20:45)
  • Could destruction to the microbiome cause neurological issues? (22:45)
  • How have you changed your lifestyle throughout your research? (24:10)
  • What kind of research is being done to study the average/optimal microbiome? (28:00)

Read More

  • The Mind-Bending Power of Bacteria
Written by Lindsay Borthwick

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