RSS04.16 Brain, Bacteria and Behaviour: Understanding the Gut-Brain Axis

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. Just like the brain, this system has a large, independent nervous system, and it is in close communication with the brain through the gut-brain axis.

One of the major determinants of healthy GI functioning are the trillion bacteria (the microbiota) that live in our gut. These bacteria (and their genomes) affect many physiological processes, such as cell proliferation and differentiation, behaviour, mood, immune function and metabolism. More importantly, disturbances of the gut microbiota may contribute to a wide variety of diseases, including cancer, inflammatory diseases, metabolic diseases and 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. However, as the field is still young, there is still a need for consensus on how to perform gut-microbiota bioinformatic and statistical analyses.

This course is targeted at participants interested in designing, conducting and interpreting research on the associations between the gut microbiome variation and brain (i.e. MRI, EEG, MEG) and behavioural outcomes. We welcome participants from various backgrounds, including nutrition, medicine, (micro)biology, neuroscience, behavioural science and psychiatry. The course consists both of interactive lectures by international experts in the field, and practical analysis sessions using the MIA-verse framework ( 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 methodologically robust studies investigating the role of the gut microbiota in mental health, cognition and behaviour.


10 July 2023 - 14 July 2023
Course Fee

Regular: €700

Early Bird: €630 (application deadline* April 1st)

Scholarships and discounts Find more information here
Application deadline

May 1st

*Your application is only completed when the course fee has been paid

Course leader
Level of participant
  • Master
  • PhD
  • Postdoc
  • Professional
Admission requirements Participating in the course requires some prior experience with the analysis program R. We require, at least, knowledge on installing packages and basic data processing and formatting (e.g. creating data frames and loading them correctly). Students who are not familiar with this software are required to go through online tutorials before the course (e.g. chapter 1-3 of You may also choose one of the Radboud Summer Schools on R that take place before this course. In addition, it is desired to have an understanding of a variety of statistical methods (i.e. counts, distributions, hypothesis testing, regression, etc.) and research methods (animal or human experiments). A background in behavioural sciences/psychiatry or knowledge about neurobiology and anatomy of the brain is recommended (but not required). Supporting reading materials will be provided before the course.
Admission documents
  • CV
  • Motivation letter
Mode of Study On Campus
Location Radboud University