Nijmegen, Netherlands

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

online course
when 5 July 2021 - 16 July 2021
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 300

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.

Course leader

Dr. Alejandro Arias Vasquez, Principal Investigator
Dr. Mirjam Bloemendaal, Post doc, Radboud University Medical Center
Dr. Jeanette Mostert, Science communication advisor

Target group


This course is designed for 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 300: The fee includes the registration fees, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.
EUR 250: For PhDs

Register for this course
on course website