Towards a cognitive neurobiology of brain-gut axis disorders

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Kennedy, Paul J.
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University College Cork
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The past two decades have seen substantial gains in our understanding of the complex processes underlying disturbed brain-gut communication in disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Despite a growing understanding of the neurobiology of brain-gut axis dysfunction, there is a relative paucity of investigations into how the various factors involved in dysregulating the brain-gut axis, including stress, immune activation and pain, could impact on fundamental brain processes such as cognitive performance. To this end, we proposed a cognitive neurobiology of brain-gut axis dysfunction and took a novel approach to examine how disturbed brain-gut interactions may manifest as altered cognitive performance in IBS and IBD, both cross-sectionally and prospectively. We have demonstrated that, disorders of the brain-gut axis are characterised by stable deficits in specific cognitive domains. Specifically, patients with IBS exhibit a consistent hippocampal mediated visuospatial memory impairment. In addition we have found evidence to suggest a similar visuospatial impairment in IBD. However, our most consistent finding within this population was that patients with Crohn’s disease exhibit impaired selective attention/ response inhibition on the classic Stroop interference test. These cognitive deficits may serve to perpetuate and sustain brain-gut axis dysfunction. Furthermore, this research has shed light on some of the underlying neurobiological mechanisms that may be mediating cognitive dysfunction in IBS. Our findings may have significant implications for the individual who suffers from a brain-gut axis disorder and may also inform future treatment strategies. Taken together, these findings can be incorporated into existing neurobiological models of brain-gut axis dysfunction, to develop a more comprehensive model accounting for the cognitive-neurobiology of brain-gut axis disorders. This has furthered our understanding of disease pathophysiology and may ultimately aid in both the diagnosis and treatment of these highly prevalent, but poorly understood disorders.
Cogniton , Brain-gut axis , Crohn's disease , Ulcerative colitis , CANTAB , Acute tryptophan depletion , HPA axis , Cortisol , Stress , Neurobiology , Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) , Inflammatory bowel disease , Trier social stress test
Kennedy, J. P. 2014. Towards a cognitive neurobiology of brain-gut axis disorders. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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