News Release

Leading experts unravel the role of the gut microbiome in addiction at the FENS Forum 2022

Insights on gut

Meeting Announcement

Federation of European Neuroscience Societies

Paris, France – July 11, 2022: As incredible as it may seem, there are trillions on tiny organisms living in, on, and around us. Healthy amounts of tiny creatures like bacteria and fungi in parts of our bodies, like our guts, help ensure that things run smoothly.

Our gut is a highly complex region that has increasingly gained the attention of researchers studying one of the most complex organs of all — the human brain. 

Over the past decade, research has enhanced our understanding of the connections between the brain and the gut. In addition to neurons interacting within the brain, the gastrointestinal tract is lined with two mesh-like layers of neurons that regulate essential functions such as digestion and secretion of hormones. Recent advances have clarified that the gut and brain are in constant bidirectional communication, and that gut microbes also influence these interactions. As a result, the term “microbiota-gut-brain axis” was coined.

In addition to keeping our guts balanced and healthy, microbes also influence nervous system activity and are important in training our immune system during development. Alterations in gut microbiota are associated with many psychiatric disorders, including addiction.

At this year’s FENS Forum, some of Europe’s top neuroscientists will gather to discuss new findings and clues that look at the connection between the gut microbiome and addiction – a neuropsychological disorder that carries high personal and societal costs and for which no efficient medicinal treatment currently exists.

The FENS Forum 2022 panel session – “Unravelling the role of the gut microbiome in addiction” will be held on Tuesday, July 12 from 09:45 to 11:15 (S38, Hall D). These exciting presentations, featuring both clinical and preclinical evidence, will address the following:

Binge drinking – a gut feeling about drinking to intoxication in adolescents

Dr Carina Carbia, from University College of Cork will present recent results on microbiome alterations, immune markers, and neuropsychological functioning in young binge drinkers (consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time).

She studies the gut-brain axis in binge drinkers during adolescence. In the first study of its kind, Dr. Carbia demonstrates alterations in the gut microbiota of young binge drinkers and identifies new biomarkers of craving before an addiction develops. Her work highlights links between the gut microbiome, emotional processing and impulsivity, which further supports the growing literature on the microbiome playing a role in cognitive processes. These findings are of relevance for gut-derived interventions directed at improving early alcohol-related alterations in young drinkers during the vulnerable period of adolescence.

Could stress trigger alcohol dependency in adolescents?

Dr. Benjamin Boutrel will discuss how we can predict what could make us vulnerable to alcoholic tendencies and how this could interact with the crucial developmental period of adolescence as well as the effects of stress.

The goal of his research is to shed light on the complex biological mechanisms underlying the overwhelming urge to consume alcohol. He recently developed an animal model of juvenile stress triggering impulsive and inattentive behaviors concomitant with the most severe forms of addiction (hypofrontality), neuroimmune activation (like inflammatory responses in the brain), and changes in the gut microbiota composition.

Hormones – potential tools in the management of alcohol dependency

Dr Lorenzo Leggio, from the NIH Intramural Research Program will outline differences in the gut microbiome and chemicals involved in metabolism (metabolomics) in a non-human primate model of binge drinking and novel results on alcohol-dependent patients.

Dr. Leggio is studying how the microbiome may interact with neuroendocrine pathways involved in addictive behaviors. To do so, he combines translational and reverse translational experimental medicine approaches. This is an interesting approach since it allows researchers to work towards problems through preclinical research while also examining real-world patient experiences or results from a clinical trial and working backwards to uncover the fundamental, mechanistic basis for what was demonstrated. For example, he and his team have conducted pioneering work demonstrating in animal models as well as in patients, that the hormone commonly known as the “hunger hormone”, ghrelin, plays a role in alcohol and drug addictions

Transplanting gut bacteria to learn more about alcohol abuse

Pr. Nathalie Delzenne, from UC Louvain, will provide an in-depth view of the role of the gut microbiome from food to alcohol addiction.

The UCLouvain Team recently showed that an imbalance in the intestinal flora is associated with metabolic alterations that affect the behavioral (depression, sociability) and neurobiological (myelination, neurotransmission, inflammation) processes involved in alcohol dependence. Indeed, patients suffering from alcohol use disorders (AUD) have significant emotional, cognitive, and social deficits. By transplanting the gut microbiota of her patients with alcohol use disorders to mice, she and her team were able to demonstrate the role of the gut microbiota in alcohol-related disorders. Nutritional disorders associated with AUD take part of microbial inbalance, dietary fibers being particularly important to take into consideration in this context.

The FENS Forum features a high-quality scientific programme covering all aspects of neuroscience, from basic to translational research. Over the course of five days, attendees will have unprecedented access to a range of symposia, technical workshops, plenary, and special lectures like these as well as poster sessions and more!

FENS and the Société des Neurosciences are eager to welcome the neuroscience community to attend Europe's largest international neuroscience meeting on 9-13 July 2022 in Paris, France.

Press passes are still available.

About FENS

FENS is the main organisation for neuroscience in Europe. FENS currently represents 44 European national and single discipline neuroscience societies across 33 European countries and over 21,000 member scientists. FENS promotes neuroscience research to policy-makers, funding bodies and the general public, both regionally and internationally. FENS promotes excellence in neuroscience research and facilitates exchanges and networking between neuroscientists within the European Research Area and beyond.


Media contact during and before the Forum

FENS Forum Press Officer

Michelle Wilson-André

+34 7 68 86 55 47


FENS Contact      

FENS Communications Team

+32 2 545 04 06


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