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The Gut-Brain Axis – Living in a Bacterial World

Words: Polly

Photos: Oxford University, Museum of Natural History, Naomi Gibson

“They may be little, but they are fierce”.

Dr Phil Burnet discusses the latest findings into links between gut bacteria and mental health. Gut bacteria increase body levels of glutamate receptor stimulating amino acids.

“My research is now testing if these amino acids and intestinal microbes affect brain neurotransmission and behaviour. My goal is to find the best ways to help the treatment of psychiatric disorders, and maintain healthy brain function during aging.”

The talk forms part of a program of events around the Bacterial World exhibition, which explores the role and reputation of bacteria. In particular, the notion of bacteria as bad is challenged as research increasingly reveals the importance of gut bacteria for mental wellbeing, not just healthy digestion.

Over fifty exhibits including artist Luke Jerram’s 28 metre long e-coli sculpture (below) form an interactive and informative exhibition.

“I hope this exhibition goes some way to revealing the generally unknown and unseen vast, diverse world of bacteria… we need to understand microbial communities to be able to continue to control those diseases and to maintain both a healthy body and a healthy planet.” Professor Judith Armitage FRS, lead scientific adviser for the exhibition.

Bacterial World is on until 28th May 2019.

Oxford University Museum – Bacterial World

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