Therapeutic Targeting of the Microbiome for Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 2:00 pm EST
Meet the Scientist - February 2023

Traditionally, variation in the genetic code was thought to be the sole cause of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, there is growing consensus behind a ‘two hit’ hypothesis, wherein a secondary environmental influence initiates changes during development that contribute to brain and behavioral dysfunction in genetically predisposed children. Our lab focuses on understanding how environmental factors that disrupt the maternal gut microbiome and its remodeling during pregnancy impact neurodevelopment and risk for neurodevelopmental disorders in descendant generations. We are also investigating the therapeutic potential of targeting the maternal gut microbiome to reduce risk for neurodevelompental disorders in offspring.

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Presented by 
Shelly A. Buffington, Ph.D.
Shelly A. Buffington, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy

University of Texas Medical Branch

2019 Young Investigator Grant

Dr. Buffington graduated Summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas with a degree in chemistry in 2007. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Baylor College of Medicine in 2012, where she went on to postdoc with Mauro Costa-Mattioli. Here, she began investigating the relationship between maternal obesity and heightened risk for neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring. Now, she and her NIH R01-funded research team are studying how environmental exposures that disrupt the maternal gut microbiome and its remodeling during pregnancy influence fetal programming of brain development and behavior and applying the resulting data to inform microbiome-targeted therapeutic approaches to reduce risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. Her work has been published in many high-profile journals, including Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, and Cell, and featured by popular news outlets such as The Economist and The New York Times.

Moderated by 
Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D.
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

President and CEO

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., serves as the President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the largest private funder of mental health research grants. Dr. Borenstein developed the Emmy-nominated public television program “Healthy Minds,” and serves as host and executive producer of the series. The program, broadcast nationwide, is available online, and focuses on topics in psychiatry in order to educate the public, reduce stigma and offer a message of hope. Dr. Borenstein also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric News, the newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Borenstein is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and serves as the Chair of the Section of Psychiatry at the Academy. He also has served as the President of the New York State Psychiatric Association. Dr. Borenstein earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard and his medical degree at New York University.