Recent Publications

Targeting the microbiome for mental health: Hype or hope?

This TINS review (highly cited paper – 536 as of May 12, 2019) and the Biological Psychiatry commentary were invited publications in high impact journals and reflect the international reputation of the Foster Lab research program. The cover of the May TINS issue that included this report was an artwork generated in collaboration between science, art, philosophy and technology.

Decoding Microbiome Research for Clinical Psychiatry

Overall, evidence in healthy and clinical populations show that microbes influence brain function and behavior. Much of the work to date has examined gut microbiome composition, and more studies are needed that utilize functional readouts such as metagenomics and metabolomics. Active studies continue to add to our knowledge of how genes and environment influence microbiota–brain interactions in mental health.

Metabolomic signature associated with depression and predictors of antidepressant response in humans: A CAN-BIND-1 report

This paper identified sex-specific predictors of anti-depressant response in a large clinical trial using metabolomic phenotyping in combination with clinical characteristics and anti-depressant response. The integration of these predictive signatures with other markers identified via different modalities by the CAN-BIND network will facilitate the construction of a multi-level, personalized signature of MDD and of antidepressant response useful for clinical practice. Efforts to optimize the treatment pipeline are essential to counter the pressing, growing burden of MDD toward accurate personalized treatments.

Gut-brain axis: How the microbiome influences anxiety and depression.

Significant progress has been made over the past decade in recognizing the importance of gut microbiota to brain function. Key findings show that stress influences the composition of the gut microbiota and that bidirectional communication between microbiota and the CNS influences stress reactivity. Several studies have shown that microbiota influence behavior and that immune challenges that influence anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors are associated with alterations in microbiota.

A pilot dose finding study of piloglitazone in children with ASD

This paper stems from ongoing collaborative clinical work examining immune alterations in children with autism between the Foster Lab and Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou at Bloorview Research Institute in Toronto. Related to this work, I am the lead of the Immune Platform for the POND network. The development of the POND Immune Platform was a direct result of the basic science research program in the Foster Lab examining immune-brain communication in brain development and behavior. Pioglitazone is well-tolerated and shows a potential signal in measures of social withdrawal, repetitive, and externalizing behaviors. Randomized controlled trials using the confirmed dose are warranted.

Microbe-Immune Crosstalk: Evidence That T Cells Influence the Development of the Brain Metabolome

The present study demonstrated that T-cell deficiency alters the development of the gut microbiota and of the host’s gastrointestinal and brain metabolome. While the influence of the microbiome on immune development is well-established [4], the results of the current study demonstrate clearly the bidirectional nature of this relationship and identify several key taxa that are important to microbiota-immune crosstalk during postnatal development. Notably, the gut-related changes in microbial composition, diversity, and metabolite profile were accompanied by parallel changes in the hippocampal and hypothalamic metabolome.

Loss of T cells influences sex differences in behavior and brain structure

This is a key paper in a series of related papers from Foster Lab 1.0 that links T lymphocytes to brain function and behavior. Importantly, we have established that sex differences in these domains are influenced by the peripheral immune system in mice and ongoing work examines this association in clinical populations.

Microbe-Immune-Stress Interactions Impact Behavior during Postnatal Development

Integrated analyses of microbiota and behavior in the context of immunocompromise revealed key behavioral related taxa that may be important to brain development. These findings are important to determining the influence of genetic and environmental factors on gut microbiota and advances our understanding microbiome-brain signaling pathways on neurodevelopment and behavior.

Is Anxiety Associated with the Gut Microbiota?

Consideration of anxiety-like behavior in animal models of metabolic and inflammatory disorders expands the scope of the work and correlates in clinical studies are emerging. This chapter highlights the work done to date in animal studies and reviews the recent clinical literature translating these observations to anxiety disorders.

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The Foster Lab research program represents a “best in class” translational research approach in an enriched, multidisciplinary environment.  Dr. Foster's academic activities include a strong translational research program, a comprehensive teaching portfolio, science outreach, contribution to local, national, and international peer review and knowledge translation.

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