Date of Submission

Spring 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations


Project Advisor 1

Michael Tibbetts

Abstract/Artist's Statement

An extensive body of research has identified a link between the microbes in the human gut and CNS function called the gut-brain-microbe axis. This link is thought to underlie the extensive co-occurrence of gastrointestinal disorders and specific mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and schizophrenia. A small but growing number of preclinical trials in both human subjects and rodent models have attempted to exploit this link to treat these conditions simultaneously using psychotropic probiotic bacteria. However, the precise effects of these probiotics are poorly understood because they work in concert with other gut bacteria already present. While “germ-free” mice with sterile gut tissue can be used to test the behavioral effects of individual species, GF mice are expensive to maintain. Therefore, this project created and tested a novel assay using germ-free zebrafish larvae for testing the effects of probiotic bacteria on anxiety-like behaviors based both on a previous senior project at Bard and on ethological studies of zebrafish larvae. A candidate anxiolytic bacteria species, L. rhamnosus, was used to colonize an experimental treatment group. Although the specific methodology developed was insufficient for high-throughput analysis because the procedure made the data only analyzable by hand, trending anxiogenic effects were observed in the L. rhamnosus treatment group, suggesting that in principle GF zebrafish larvae can be used as a model organism for this type of assay. Procedural alterations to improve the assay are discussed.

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