News Archive 2021
Dr Olivia O’Leary awarded funding to research the role of the maternal microbiome in shaping increased susceptibility of females to stress-related psychiatric disorders.
Dr Olivia O’Leary, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience and APC Microbiome Ireland Research Institute, has been awarded research funding from the Geneva-based BIOSTIME Institute Nutrition & Care (BINC) Foundation to explore the role of the maternal gut microbiome in increasing susceptibility of females to stress-related psychiatric disorders and associated brain changes. The project will be conducted with collaborator, Professor John F. Cryan, also of the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience and APC Microbiome Ireland.
Stressors during childhood increase risk to develop depression and anxiety, and stress has been shown to reduce adult hippocampal neurogenesis (production of new neurons in the hippocampus area of the adult brain), an important stress-sensitive brain process that is required for antidepressant action. Intriguingly, depression is >two times more prevalent in females than males. Women are also uniquely vulnerable to postpartum depression. Despite this sex difference in vulnerability, few studies have investigated its underlying mechanisms including the contribution of the maternal gut microbiome.
This project will determine whether manipulation of the maternal microbiome can prevent the negative effects of postpartum stress on hippocampal neurogenesis, and depression and anxiety-like behaviours in mothers, and increase stress resilience in their offspring in a sex-dependent or sex-independent manner. The project also aims to identify the maternal gut bacteria associated sex-specific outcomes in stress susceptibility and resilience. The results of this project will inform the development of antenatal microbiota-based dietary supplements to conteract the negative effects of stress on maternal brain health and to promote stress resilience in their offspring.
Photograph B. Riedewald