Netherlands, Nijmegen

Brain, Bacteria and Behaviour: Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis

when 13 July 2020 - 17 July 2020
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 650

To understand behaviour, we often think only of studying the brain. However, there is another key system, almost always overlooked, involved in the normal functioning of the brain: the Gastro Intestinal (GI) system. The gut plays a key role in this relationship. Just like the brain, this organ has a large, independent nervous system, and it is in close communication with the brain through the gut-brain axis. Trillion of bacteria (the microbiota) live in our gut, with millions of genes (the microbiome). The microbiota is an important environmental factor that affects many physiological processes, such as cell proliferation and differentiation, behaviour, immune function and metabolism. More importantly, it may contribute to a wide variety of diseases, including cancer, inflammatory diseases, metabolic diseases and responses to pathogens, and importantly for this course: psychiatric diseases.

Due to rapid developments in genetic sequencing methods, we can now investigate bacterial life in the gut. This has lead to a new line in cognitive, behavioural and psychiatric research that studies the gut microbiome-brain axis.

This course is targeted at participants interested in designing, conducting and interpreting research on the associations between the gut microbiome, brain and behaviour. We welcome participants from various backgrounds, including (micro)biology, neuroscience, behavioural science and psychiatry. During assignments, you will learn from each other, making use of your different backgrounds. At the end of the course, participants will have a good understanding of the promises and pitfalls of studying the gut microbiome in relation to brain health, and will have the basic skills to design and conduct studies investigating the role of the gut in mental health, cognition and behaviour.

Topics in the course include:

The (Systems) Biology of the Microbiota and the various routes of gut-brain communication.
The role of the Microbiota -Gut-Brain Axis in behaviour and mental health.
Key modifiers of the gut microbiome (nutrition, stress, age, gender and host genes)
Current methodological approaches to analyse Microbiota -Gut-Brain Axis based hypothesis (data collection, bacterial DNA extraction, bioinformatic and statistical tools)
Practical sessions aimed to analyse 16s RNA-gene microbiome data and associating it with brain imaging data and cognitive tasks..

Lectures and practicals will be taught by national and international experts in the field, including
Prof. dr. Mihai Netea (Radboud University Medical Center)
Prof. dr. John Cryan (University College Cork, Ireland )
Dr. Clara Belzer (Wageningen University) \
Dr. Leo Lahti (University of Turku, Finland)
Dr. Jeroen Raes (University of Leuven)
Dr. Tom Ederveen (Radboudumc)
This course is supported by the Eat2beNICE Consortium

Course leader

Dr. Alejandro Arias Vasquez, Principal Investigator, Psychiatry & Human Genetics, Radboud University Medical Center
Dr. Mirjam Bloemendaal, Post doc, Radboud University Medical Center
Dr. Jeanette Mostert, scientific researcher, Department of Genetics,

Target group

• Master
• PhD
• Post-doc

Early career scientists in the fields of biology, microbiology, psychiatry, neuroimaging, psychology, neuroscience who are interested in learning about the gut-brain-axis and the basics of conducting studies linking parameters from the gut microbiome to neural and behavioural measures.

Course aim

After this course you are able to:

1. Understand the basic concepts of the gut microbiome biology.
2. Explain the various routes through which the gut and the brain influence each other.
3. Understand the pros and cons of using several bioinformatics pipelines for analysing and interpreting 16s RNA gut microbiome data.
4. Design an experiment to investigate how the gut microbiome influences brain functioning / behaviour.

Fee info

EUR 650: For students.
The fee includes the registration fees, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.
EUR 750: For Industry/professionals.
The fee includes the registration fees, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.


We offer several reduced fees for:
€ 585 for students and €675 for professionals early bird discount- deadline 1 March 2020 (10%)
€ 553 partner + RU discount (15%)
€ 488 early bird + partner + RU discount (25%)

Register for this course
on course website