Connecting European Neuroscience

EJN Best Publication Award 2017

EJN Best Publication Award 2017

This biennial award recognises the best original research article published in EJN over the preceding two-year period (published or accepted in 2015 and 2016).

In collaboration with FENS and Wiley-Blackwell,  EJN is proud to announce that the winner of the "Best Publication Award 2017" is Ms. Luczynski, medical student at the Island Medical Program, University of British Columbia in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She is a former research assistant at the APC Microbiome Institute, University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, where research was conducted.

She receives this Award for her publication in EJN:

"Adult microbiota-deficient mice have distinct dendritic morphological changes: differential effects in the amygdala and hippocampus" (published in EJN Volume 44, Issue 9). This paper was coauthored by Seán O. Whelan, Colette O'Sullivan, Gerard Clarke, Fergus Shanahan, Timothy G. Dinan, and John F. Cryan.

In last decade, the amount of evidence implicating the gut microbiota in the regulation of brain and behaviour has grown exponentially. Arguably, the greatest contribution has come from the germ-free mouse model: mice raised in the complete absence of microorganisms. Germ-free mice have demonstrated the microbiota to be a key regulator of a range of behavioural and hormonal endpoints, including hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis signalling, stress responsivity, and social cognition. In our study “Adult microbiota-deficient mice have distinct dendritic morphological changes: differential effects in the amygdala and hippocampus,” we hypothesized that the germ-free phenotype could be due to structural changes in the amygdala and hippocampus, which affect their respective neural outputs. Volumetric estimates revealed that the amygdala and hippocampus of germ-free mice were significantly expanded compared to controls. Similarly, neurons in the basolateral amygdala and ventral hippocampus of germ-free mice showed significant changes in dendritic length and spine density. Taken together, our findings provide convincing evidence that the microbiota is required for the normal gross morphology and ultrastructure of the amygdala and hippocampus. Moreover, these observed structural changes could underlie the maladaptive stress responsivity and social cognition characteristic of germ-free mice.

Our study serves as a proof of principle experiment showing that the amygdala and hippocampus are brain regions whose structural integrity is contingent on signalling from the gut microbiota. This has the potential to explain why expression of limbic system-mediated behaviours and physiology are affected in animal models where the gut microbiota is altered. Our study serves as a starting point to further investigate if the amygdala and hippocampus are structurally malleable following interventions targeting the microbiota across the lifespan. Future findings in this exciting area of research will lead to an increased understanding of the importance of the microbiota on the brain and may ultimately inform new strategies for the treatment of disorders of the brain-gut axis in humans. 

The award will be presented at the FENS Regional Meeting in Pécs, Hungary (20 – 23 September 2017). The award winner will give a lecture at FRM meeting.

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Pauline Luczynski

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