Research Question

In this project, we study the gut-brain axis and specifically focus on a potential causal link between gut microbial composition and human behavior. Previous research in animals and humans demonstrated that the gut microbiome had an impact on cognition and behavior, like mood, anxiety, and impulsivity (Mayer 2011, Mayer et al. 2014, García-Cabrerizo et al. 2020). Moreover, gut microbial composition is associated with body weight (Le Chatelier et al. 2013, John et al. 2018 ).

We would like to know whether the gut microbiome is able to affect body weight and associated metabolic markers by acting on (dietary) decision-making processes, eating behavior, and neural correlates in the brain. This interdisciplinary approach provides insights into the underlying mechanisms of gut-brain-interactions for eating behavior and overweight.

Study Design and Procedure

In a randomized and double-blind intervention-study, we used a commercially available synbiotic (combination of pre- and probiotics) to manipulate gut-microbial composition. 117 normal- to overweight male participants either took the synbiotic or a placebo daily for 7 weeks.

Before and after the intervention participants attended our study sessions. In these sessions we assessed microbial composition of stool samples, metabolic markers in blood samples, anthropometric measures, eating behavior, and (dietary) decision making including its neural correlates by employing several different questionnaires, tasks, and functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. 

Plassmann, H, Schelski, DS, Simon, M-C, Koban, L. How we decide what to eat: Toward an interdisciplinary model of gut–brain interactions. WIREs Cogn Sci. 2021;e1562. © WIREs Cogn Sci


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Jun. Prof. Dr. Marie-Christine Simon

Room No. 1.014, 1.Floor

+49 (0) 228 73-3814

Associate Prof. Hilke Plassmann

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