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Extending and twisting the gut-brain axis: interoception and mental health

Jan Pieter Konsman, Bordeaux neurocampus

2019.10.07 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Tue 05 Nov
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483-312


The neurobiologist Bud Craig has recently argued against Charles Sherrington that temperature and pain should be included into interoception, which therefore ought to be considered “as the sense of the physiological condition of the entire body” (Craig, Nat. Rev. Neurosci., 2002). However, Sherrington’s view, formulated during the first half of the 20st century, according to which interoception is limited to the oronasal cavities and viscera is still influential. But regardless of whether interoception is construed broadly or more narrowly, it has been proposed to play an important role in tissue homeostasis, emotions, feelings and cognition (Craig Nat. Rev. Neurosci., 2009; The Interoceptive Mind, Eds. Tsakiris and De Preester, 2019). 

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries many physicians and psychologists have invoked interplay between the mind or the brain and the gut in possible explanations for a variety of somatic and mental disorders (Watson, Edinb. Med. J., 1925; Brown, Am. J. Dig. Dis., 1963; Miller, Microb. Ecol. Health Dis., 2018). Notwithstanding some longstanding research traditions in neurogastroenterology, it seems that basic science has come to deeper investigate the interactions between the gut and the brain after the discovery in the 1970s that many peptides present in the gut were also found in the brain. It is within the context that the term gut-brain axis has emerged (Track, Can. J. Surg., 1983). Most recently however, this notion has been extended to the microbiota-gut-brain axis by including intestinal microorganisms (Zyoud et al., BMC Gastroenterology, 2019), which have also been proposed to influence mental health and cognition (Hooks et al., Behav. Brain Res., 2018). 

Here we are interested in the period spanning the 1980s until the early 2000s during which non-specific signs and symptoms of infectious bacterial disease, like fever and reduced behavioral activity and food intake, were more and more being considered as adaptive responses actively put in place by the infected host (Hart, Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev., 1989). In particular, we will present evidence showing that different interoceptive pathways transmit infection-related signals from the abdominal cavity to the brain to increase body temperature and decrease behavioral activity and food intake (Konsman et al., Trends Neurosci., 2002). Finally, we will discuss the relevance of this line of research for the so-called inflammatory hypothesis of depression (Konsman, Pharmaceuticals, 2019) and argue that current microbiota-gut-brain research is, at least, in part epistemically dependent on the reconsideration of the changes in animal (including human) behavior after detection of bacterial fragments and the recent unraveling of innate immune-to-brain communication pathways. 


About the speaker

Jan Pieter Konsman has a PhD in neuroscience and works at the French National Center for Scientific Research on neuroimmune interaction during inflammation. He also holds a Master degree in History and Philosophy of Science and is interested in interdisciplinary approaches of the body-mind problem.


Jan Pieter Konsman, Researcher
UMR CNRS 5287 Inst. Cogn. Integrat. Neurosci. Aquitaine & PhilInBioMed, University of Bordeaux   
Bordeaux neurocampus