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NSF Awards $1M to Study Gut-Brain Link

A University of Maryland team has been awarded a three-year, $1 million grant by the National Science Foundation to investigate the complex effects of intestinal serotonin on both gut and brain health.

The project will include culturing a model of the gut lining to monitor the gut’s creation of the neurotransmitter serotonin via multimodal integrated electrodes, then colonizing the model lining with different combinations of gut bacteria and using machine learning to process the simulated outcomes.

Serotonin regulates the link between gut and brain, affecting everything from bowel function to one’s mood. While neuroscientists know generally that the gut microbiome stimulates the generation of gastrointestinal serotonin, it is less well understood how specific bacterial species influence serotonin’s production and, subsequently, by what pathways this serotonin affects neural processes.

The award leverages UMD’s expertise in electrical and computer engineering, bioengineering, molecular biology, neuroscience, physics and data science. The project’s principal investigator is electrical and computer engineering Professor Reza Ghodssi, bioengineering Professor William Bentley, psychology Associate Professor Jens Herberholz, and physics Professor Wolfgang Losert are co-principal investigators.

Pilot data for the interdisciplinary project was gathered with help from an award from the Brain and Behavior Initiative’s Seed Grant Program.

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