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Brain, Bacteria and Behaviour: Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis

Date: 11 - 15 July 2022            
Early bird fee: €585 or €488 (deadline 1 April 2022)
Regular fee: €650
Application deadline: 1 June 2022

Download the detailed programme here

Course Description

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.

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 (GI) 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 lead to a new line in cognitive, behavioural and psychiatric research that studies the gut microbiome-brain axis.

This course is targeted to participants interested in designing, conducting and interpreting research on the associations between the gut microbiome, brain and behaviour. This course is mainly intended for participants with a background in (cognitive) neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry. However we welcome other backgrounds, provided that participants are willing to read about basic neuroscience principles before the course.

During assignments, participants learn from each other, making use of their different backgrounds. At the end of the course, participants will have a good understanding of 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.

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.

Lectures and practicals will be taught by national and international experts in the field.

Course Leaders

Dr. Alejandro Arias Vasquez, Principal Investigator, Psychiatry & Human Genetics, Radboud University Medical Center

Dr. Mirjam Bloemendaal, Postdoctoral Researcher, Psychiatry & Human Genetics, Radboud University Medical Center

Dr. Jeanette Mostert, Associate Principal Lecturer, Department of Genetics, Radboud University Medical Center

Learning Outcomes

After this course you are able to:

  • Understand the basic concepts of the gut microbiome biology.
  • Explain the various routes through which the gut and the brain influence each other.
  • Understand the pros and cons of using several bioinformatics pipelines for analysing and interpreting 16s RNA gut microbiome data.
  • Design an experiment to investigate how the gut microbiome influences brain functioning / behaviour.

Level of participant

  • Master
  • PhD
  • Post-doc
  • Professionals

The course is designed for

Early career scientists in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry (or related disciplines) who are interested in learning about the gut-brain-axis and the basics of conducting studies linking parameters from the gut microbiome to neural and behavioural measures.

Admission Requirements

Participants are expected to have a basic understanding of statistics (regression) and a working understanding of research methods (animal or human experiments). Experience with the statistical analysis program R is highly recommended. Students who are not familiar with this program are required to go through online tutorials before the course. Also a (strong) background in behavioural science/psychiatry including knowledge about neurobiology and anatomy of the brain is recommended. Suggested reading materials will be provided for those participants who need to update their knowledge before the course.

Admission Documents

  • Motivation letter
  • CV


11 - 15 July 2022

Application Deadline

1 June 2022

Course Fee


Early Bird Discounts

  • 10% early bird discount for all applicants
  • 25% discount early bird discount for:
    • students and PhD candidates from partner universities and Radboud University
    • alumni of Radboud Summer School and Radboud University

Mode of study

This course will be offered on campus.

ECTS credits


Participant Testimonials

“The most positive aspect was the change of experience, meeting new people from all around the world and expanding on existing knowledge.”

“The most positive aspect of Radboud Summer School was the multicultural and dynamic teaching environment.”

"The lectures were really nice and well structured, but I really enjoyed the hands on work as well"

"I enjoyed the whole course, but I liked the morning coffee very much and group discussion, both with the attendees and the participants. The atmosphere was so lovely, that apart from learning it was just a really nice time."