PSIA 851: An introduction to the gut-brain axis

Welcome! Below, I have three videos covering the gut-brain axis. The topics that I will cover include:

  1. A brief history of the central nervous system and the gut-brain axis
  2. An introduction to the blood-brain barrier (BBB), as well as mechanisms that enable molecules to cross this structure
  3. An introduction to the gut microbiota and how they can influence host health

On Wednesday, during class (later start at 9am), I will be available to answer any questions that you may have about the topics covered, as well as re-explain anything that you found unclear. If time permits, or there are no questions on Wednesday, I will present a case study about how the gut microbiota may be manipulated to treat human disease. While it is not essential, please try to watch the videos prior to class, as it may help your understanding of this case study.

To download a copy of the lecture slides, please click the following link:

Please note: In an attempt to save paper, I have removed slide transitions in the above download. I do not include anything that I scribbled on the slides while recording the videos. The scribbles do not add vital information to the slides, but they may help your understanding.


Video 1

In the first video, you will be introduced to this video series, as well as learn the history of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The gut-brain axis was proposed sixteen years ago, and a majority of the research surrounding this topic was published in the last five years. Thus, our understanding of the gut-brain axis is constantly evolving. To understand why the discovery of the gut-brain axis was monumental, I believe we must (briefly!) appreciate how we got to our present understanding of the central nervous system.

Video 2

In this second video, I will describe the structure of the blood-brain barrier, as well as mechanisms that molecules can engage to cross this structure.

Video 3

In this third video, I will give an overview of the gut microbiota and how they can communicate with the brain. In addition, I will describe a few consequences of an abnormal or absent gut microbiota. I will also briefly touch on the limitations of models used to study the effects of gut microbiota on mammalian health.

There is no video.

During class, if there is extra time, I will take a much more technical dive into how the gut microbiota can be manipulated to treat human disease, using real data. The specifics of the experiments are complicated (i.e., there will be a lot of vocabulary words), but do not worry about the details. When watching this video, feel free to grab some popcorn and relax – I simply want to demonstrate the potential importance of the gut-brain axis in therapeutics.