Understanding the gut-brain axis
Understanding the gut-brain axis

Brain, Bacteria and Behaviour: understanding the gut-brain axis (RSS4.06) - Confirmed

In this hands-on course you will learn the latest evidence on the role of commensal gut microbiota in the gut-brain axis, and how to study interactions between gut microbiome and brain functioning, behaviour and psychiatric diseases.

Duration: one-week.


    The application deadline has passed, applying is no longer possible

    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 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 gut microbiome 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, 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 led to a new line in cognitive, behavioural and psychiatric research that studies the gut microbiome-brain axis. Topics in the course include:

    • The (Systems) Biology of the Microbiota and the various routes of gut-brain communication
    • The role of the Microbiota -Gut-Brain Axis in behaviour and mental health
    • Key modifiers of the gut microbiome (nutrition, stress, age, gender and host genes)
    • Current methodological approaches to analyse Microbiota -Gut-Brain Axis-based hypothesis (data collection, bacterial DNA extraction, bioinformatic and statistical tools)
    • Practical sessions aimed to analyse 16s RNA-gene microbiome data and associating it with brain imaging data and cognitive tasks. 

    This course is particularly for you if you are interested in designing, conducting and interpreting research on the associations between the gut microbiome, brain and behaviour. For participation in this course it is recommended you have a background in (cognitive) neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry. However if you have another backgrounds, you are welcome to participate if you are willing to read about basic neuroscience principles before the course. 

    Starting date

    08 July 2024, 9 am
    Educational method
    Main Language
    08 July 2024, 9 am - 12 July 2024, 5 pm
    Dr. Alejandro Arias Vasquez
    Dr. Mirjam Bloemendaal
    Danique Mulder
    Dr. Jeanette Mostert
    Unique code


    Type of education
    Entry requirements
    See the requirements in cost and admission
    Study load (ECTS)
    Radboud Summer School

    Startdate: 8 July 2024, 9 am - 12 July 2024, 5 pm
    ECTS credits: 2 ECTS. For more information see credits and certificate.

    Course programme

    During assignments, you will learn from each other, making use of your different backgrounds. At the end of the course, you will be able to understand the basic concepts of the gut microbiome biology, understand 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. Furthermore, you will be able to explain the various routes through which the gut and the brain influence each other, and how to set up your own analysis for gut microbiome analyses in the context of gut-brain research.

    • Weekly schedule and social events

      The weekly programme of Radboud Summer School is carefully designed for the best experience. On this page you will find the timetables and social events.

    Watch what our participants say about their experience!

    Course list

    Overview courses and disciplines

    Course list
    Physics and Chemistry

    Physics and Chemistry

    Course list
    Alejandro Arias Vasquez

    dr. Alejandro Arias Vasquez

    Alejandro Arias Vásquez was born in Colombia, obtained his PhD in Genetic Epidemiology in 2006, and is a Principal Investigator (since 2015) and Associate Professor in Biological Neuropsychiatry in Radboudumc since 2019. His research activities are imbedded within three domains: genetic epidemiology, effects of the gut microbiota in neurodevelopment, and high order analysis methods of complex traits. 

    For over 15 years, his drive towards the discovery of genetic determinants of psychiatric disease has led him through a road full with exciting breakthroughs. His work on neuropsychological traits and neurodevelopmental disorders (mainly ADHD and ASD) allowed him to establish the biological and statistical relevance of quantitative behavioral traits in the search for disease genes. The main contribution of this work has been to set-in a new research approach for brain imaging genetics (via his work in the ENIGMA consortium) that is currently considered one of the “standard” ways to analyse brain imaging genetics data. 

    Since 2013, he set-up a one-of-a-kind collaboration (at the Radboud UMC) between psychiatry, brain imaging, behaviour, genetics and microbiology in order to investigate, for the first time, the relationship between gut bacteria (the microbiota) and neurodevelopmental disorders (ADHD, ASD and ID) and related behaviour in humans. This pioneering work has received support from the NWO through a Food & Cognition personal grant and the EU-H2020 program through an European Training Network and a Research & Innovation Action call. The latter is the Eat2beNICE project (http://newbrainnutrition.com/). 

    Currently, his group applies complex statistical analytical methods with a focus on maximizing the prediction and classification power of multiple biological markers (i.e. genes, microbiota) and integrating them with environmental, clinical, cognitive, and neuroimaging (brain structure and function) information in order to better characterize NDDs. 

    Mirjam Bloemendaal

    Dr. Mirjam Bloemendaal

    Mirjam Bloemendaal is interdisciplinary researcher, originally trained as a neuropsychologist. She obtained a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in 2017. In this period she got intrigued by the influence of nutrition and gut microbiota on cognitive performance and mental health. She has a drive for mechanistic research in a clinical setting. She has experience both in academia and industry, setting up and managing public-private consortia. In this context she performs bioinformatic analyses studying the role of the gut microbiota (e.g. using 16S rRNA sequencing data) in the gut-brain-axis, looking into the potential of non-pharmacological interventions in mental health treatment. At the Radboudumc and Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany she is involved in various (intervention) studies tapping into the gut-immune-brain axis. This allows her to study the role of lifestyle factors (diet, probiotics, physical activity) and the gut microbiota in cognitive functioning and mental health across the lifespan. 

    Danique Mulder

    Danique Mulder

    Danique Mulder is a cognitive neuroscientist, completed her master's program in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, where she gained expertise in electrophysiological methods such as EEG and MEG. Currently, she works as a research assistant at the Radboud University Medical Center. Her research focuses on exploring the microbiota-gut-brain axis in the context of psychiatric disorders and psychiatric comorbidity. Danique has a keen interest in the lifestyle and nutritional psychiatry, and firmly believes in the importance of considering lifestyle factors in the context of mental health. Through her research she hopes to gain mechanistic insight on how lifestyle factors could shape mental well-being

    Jeanette Mostert

    Dr. Jeanette Mostert

    Dr. Jeanette Mostert is a neurobiologist, science communicator and associate principal lecturer. She obtained her PhD at the Radboudumc Nijmegen and Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in 2016, where she investigated heterogeneity in functional brain connectivity and behaviour of adults with ADHD. She subsequently focused on teaching at the Bachelor program Psychobiology of the University of Amsterdam, where she also obtained her teaching qualification (BKO). Currently she works at the department of genetics as embedded science communication advisor where she helps researchers to translate their work to the general public. Her focus is on adult ADHD and the role of the gut-brain axis in psychiatric behaviour. As lecturer she teaches several courses at medical and biomedical sciences and is currently in the process of obtaining her extended teaching qualification.

    The application deadline has passed, applying is no longer possible



    • Regular: €700 (application deadline 15th of May)

    Includes: your course, coffee and tea during breaks, a warm lunch every day, Official Opening, Official Closing (with some drinks and snacks). 

    Excludes: transport, accommodation, social events and other costs.  

    Discounts and Scholarships


    Level of participant: 

    • Master
    • PhD
    • Postdoc
    • Professional

    Admission requirements:

    • Basic understanding of statistics (regression) and a working understanding of research methods;
    • Prior experience with the statistical analysis program R (with regard to loading and organising data, and loading packages);
    • Background in behavioral science/psychiatry including knowledge about neurobiology and anatomy of the brain is recommended.

     If you are unfamiliar with the statistical analysis program R, you are required to go through online tutorials before the course (e.g. chapter 1-3 of this tutorial). You may also choose one of the other Radboud Summer School courses on R. Furthermore, if you want to update your knowledge before the course, you can read the suggested reading materials that will be provided to you. 

    Admission documents: 

    • Motivation letter 
    • CV

    Cannot join us this year? 

    We can keep you informed about the 2025 course program! Do you want to broaden your knowledge in 2025 over courses about sustainability, law, research methods & skills, data science and more. Get an email when the new proposal is ready. Because you have a part to play!

    Keep me informed