My passion for neuroscience started when I was studying biochemistry at the University of Hull. By the time I completed an MSc in Neurochemistry at Kings College, and a PhD at Imperial College, London, I was convinced that an academic career in neuroscience was for me. I was particularly keen to understand the neurochemical and molecular processes that are affected in psychiatric illness. I explored neurotransmitter systems in pre-clinical models of emotional behaviours as a visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health USA, and then in 1991, was awarded a fellowship to investigate neurotransmitter systems in schizophrenia at Oxford. It was during these studies I realized that gut bacteria produced similar molecules to those I was studying in the brain. So for the past 13 years, I have been exploring how manipulating gut bacteria with prebiotic and probiotic supplements can influence brain function and help the treatment of mood and psychotic disorders.
Public Engagement: I have been involved in several TV documentaries on the BBC and Channel 4, including ‘The truth about sleep’, ‘The truth about looking after you mental health’ and ‘Live well for longer’ all of which featured our research into prebiotic and probiotic supplements. I have also done BBC radio shows about gut bacteria and the brain, and I am also a member of the All Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the ‘Human Microbiome’ where we discuss with politicians the importance and advancement of microbiome research.
In Oxford, I have been involved with ‘Cell Day’ held for secondary school pupils, ‘The Bacterial World’ at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and ‘Melancholy: a new anatomy’ which featured our work under the display linking diet to mental health.
Find out more about my research in these YouTube videos: