Gut-brain research gets €2 million grant
Release Date 10 December 2019
The impact of the bacteria in the human gut on our brain is the focus of a new €2 million research grant awarded to Professor Bhismadev Chakrabarti at the University of Reading.
He will be leading a team from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences and Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences to look at the effect of bacteria in the gut on brain function.
The project is titled “Mapping the impact of gut microbiota on brain and behaviour through the lens of GABA”, and will be funded by a European Research Council Consolidator Award to Prof Chakrabarti. The research will look at the production of Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) by bacteria in the gut. GABA is one of the key signalling molecules in the brain. Through a series of experiments, the team will investigate whether the population of gut bacteria that produce GABA influence the brain levels of the compound.
Prof Bhismadev Chakrabarti, Professor of Neuroscience & Mental Health at the University of Reading said:
“This grant provides us with an exciting opportunity to break new ground in the relationship between the bacteria in our gut and how our brain functions. The resident bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract is 40-90% distinct between different individuals, and the bacteria outnumber human cells. The bacteria also account for nearly 10 times as much DNA as that from human cells.
“As a result, there is this intriguing possibility that the bacteria contribute to the large variations seen in human behaviour and brain function. It is already suggested that there is a link between the bacteria in our gut and many health conditions including those affecting mental health.
“With the funding from the ERC, these studies will address a fundamental question of whether the population of gut bacteria capable of producing the neurotransmitter GABA, as well as its modulation by probiotics, has any impact on the level of GABA in the brain and its function.”
The new €2 million funding grant was announced by the European Research Council today as one of the winners of its latest Consolidator Grant competition. 301 top scientists and scholars across Europe were awarded funding that totalled €600 million.
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: "Knowledge developed in these new projects will allow us to understand the challenges we face at a more fundamental level, and may provide us with breakthroughs and innovations that we haven’t even imagined. The EU’s investment in frontier research is an investment in our future, which is why it is so important that we reach an agreement on an ambitious Horizon Europe budget for the next multiannual budget. More available research funding would also allow us to create more opportunities everywhere in the EU - excellence should not be a question of geography."
The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers of any nationality and age, with at least seven and up to twelve years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise. Research must be conducted in a public or private research organisation located in one of the EU Member States or Associated Countries.