Our core interest is gut-brain neurophysiology and sensory processing in health, disease and aging. We use biophysical, biochemical, electrophysiological and computational modeling techniques to study primary afferent neurons intrinsic to the gut. We aim to understand how mechanical and chemical sensory signals from luminal microorganisms or food are processed by enteric neural circuits to achieve peristalsis and digestion. We have developed and published methodology to patch clamp in situ primary afferent neurons of the myenteric plexus of the enteric nervous system. This has allowed us to characterize these cells functions in the animal species most commonly used in experimental models of gut pathology.
Our ongoing studies include neuron responses to signals from biologicals such as beneficial bacteria and their molecules. We are presently studying how the enteric and central nervous system communicate with a view to identifying the neural codes through which beneficial bacteria and molecules change behaviour and improve brain function, especially in the aged.
Our lab has very productive collaborations with other research groups in Canada and China. We have been fortunate to collaborate with the Bienenstock, Forsythe, Huizinga and Foster labs at McMaster University, and the Liu lab in the Department of Physiology, Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Mental Disorders, China.
My fundamental aim is to provide the science and mechanistic models to facilitate the discovery of new, safer treatments for disorders of the peripheral and central nervous systems.