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Emeran A. Mayer, MD, Ph.D., David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, delivers an informative overview of the brain to gut connection. Dr. Mayer serves as director,G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience (CNSR); co-director, CURE: Digestive Diseases Research Center; and is an experienced professor of medicine, physiology, and psychiatry.

Dr. Mayer attended the Ludwig Maximilian’s University in Munich, Germany where he received his MD/ Ph.D. Dr. Mayer completed his residency at the Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, Canada and his GI fellowship training at the UCLA/VA Wadsworth Training Program. With a lifelong fascination for research, Dr. Mayer has applied his extensive knowledge toward a career studying the clinical and research aspects of brain-body interactions, with a particularly intensive focus on bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut in regard to health and disease.

Dr. Mayer discusses his long career and findings that led to the decision to write his new book, The Mind-Gut Connection. He details particular studies that influenced the material that is discussed in-depth in his books, such as one study that involved testing of individuals who were given a probiotic cocktail and then observed regarding their symptoms and brain function. His surprising findings in this study pushed him to include the gut microbiome in all of his studies thereafter.

Dr. Mayer is considered to be one of the world’s top expert investigators of the many brain-gut microbiome interactions in GI disorders, with specific regard to functional and inflammatory bowel disorders as well as obesity. Dr. Mayer’s exceptional work has been noted worldwide and as such he has enjoyed continual funding for his important research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1989.

The digestive research expert reveals his findings on multitudinous studies of microbial function. He details the use of interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in his studies, specifically regarding gastrointestinal maladies such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and others. His findings indicated that the CBT was instrumental in improving symptoms for IBS significantly. Dr. Mayer’s work concluded that the brain has incredible influence on microbial composition. Dr. Mayer relates how the autonomic nervous system affects the environment of the gut, thus stressors in our lives have a direct impact on our digestive system’s functioning, from secretions to peptides, to blood flow, and beyond.

Dr. Mayer speaks about causality and the models that they have studied to explain microbiome disorders. He discusses the circular process in which the brain sends signals to the gut, the back and forth signaling that impacts functioning. Further, he discusses in detail gene expression profiles, proteins, metabolites, etc., and the connections between various elements of his research, as well as the collective research, being done globally in regard to these brain/gut issues.

The neurobiology researcher provides some background on other studies that focus on teaching the brain to send different signals, as well as diet in regard to gut microbial function. Dr. Mayer states that plant-based diets are by far the best diets for functioning, and the microbiome in general, according to epidemiological studies. He discusses how metabolites are affected by diet, and how gut function will revert when special diets are changed or discontinued. He provides detailed information on specific diets and his thoughts regarding them. As Dr. Mayer states, exposure to antibiotics and dietary patterns of pregnant mothers, etc. all impact microbiomes. He explains the differences that exist in the microbiomes of various and diverse populations of people, and how diet can impact our gut functioning rather quickly once changes are made, for example switching from fast food to a Mediterranean diet, etc.

Dr. Mayer is the director of the Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress, and is currently PI of a NIH Center grant on the sex differences in functional GI disorders, on a consortium grant of brain-bladder interactions, and a RO1 grant on brain imaging in IBS. As a leading expert in microbiome studies, Dr. Mayer seeks to continually dig deeper into the connections between the brain and the gut in his quest to find new ways to improve health for everyone.

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