Understanding the gut-brain interactions in aging and Alzheimer’s disease particularly, how host genetics and environmental factors (such as diet) may impact the disease progression.
My research involves a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the neuroprotective/therapeutic potential of natural products such as lycopene, curcumin, probiotics in neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). For the last six years, my research is focused on understanding if and how altered gut microbiota influence cognitive functions and disease progression in mouse models of AD. Even though genetics plays an important role in etiology of AD, environmental factors such as gut microbiota also have a significant influence on AD. My previous research findings provide evidence that the enteric nervous system, in addition to the central nervous system is affected in AD, supporting the role of gut-brain axis in pathophysiology of AD. At O'Connell’s lab I am investigating the complex interactions between the host genetics, gut microbiota and AD.